As a particularly frugal traveller who is partial to a drink, I've begun flying with a vodka miniature in my toiletries. It goes down wonders with a glass of cola from the trolley, and works out a lot cheaper than buying them on the plane. ($11 for a vodka tonic!) I've never had any trouble during screening, but is this travel hack a genius or am I likely to get in to trouble?
Many passengers find that a drink takes the edge off of flying. Not to the point of incapacitation - that's irresponsible - but who wouldn't want to toast the first step of a holiday abroad with their travel companion or significant other?
In the age of budget travel and 'elective charges' airlines have discovered that the drinks trolley is something passengers will pay for. Even on the carriers who still include complimentary drinks, it seems a shame to do with whatever vin ordinaire is being sloshed around when you've just picked up a couple of bottles of Hawkes Bay Syrah in Duty Free that are just crying out to be uncorked.
BYO and fly would be the obvious solution, if it wasn't so legally dubious.
Depending on where you are and who you're flying with, drinking your duty free booze could land you in a lot of trouble.
In Europe you can end up on no-fly lists and with hefty fines if you unstopper what you picked up at the airport. Years of deteriorating passenger behaviour has seen incidents spike to almost one in every 1000 flights. In almost every case, booze has played a part.
For the sake of their crew and order on flights, the trade body Airlines UK has called for duty free alcohol to be sold in sealed bags and passengers to be fined if they tuck into their own supplies. Miniature bottles were highlighted as a particular problem, with Gatwick airport ceasing to sell them last year.
However, there is one way you might be able to enjoy your vodka and soda:
Politely, ask the cabin staff to pour it for you.
Once you are airborne you are governed by the rules of whatever territory your airline is registered to.
For example a baby-faced 20-year-old on a United Airlines flight might be shocked to be refused service. Whereas the German carrier Lufthansa would gladly pour said traveller a beer, as they are governed by a legal drinking age of 16 not 21.
In the US, the FAA has some very specific laws on the service of alcohol.
§ 121.575 Alcoholic beverages says: "No person may drink any alcoholic beverage aboard an aircraft unless the certificate holder operating the aircraft has served that beverage to him."
While this might sound pedantic, it means that you can drink you duty free - providing you ask an attendant to pour it for you.
In fact, some US airlines have made an opportunity out of the legal loophole. In 2017 Jet Blue publicised itself as the BYO of the skies, inviting passengers to give their bottles to "Inflight crew members, [who] will be happy to serve it to you."
The laws governing alcohol in Aotearoa and its airspace are drier than your metaphorical martini.
The CAA in New Zealand doesn't have such gin-clear guidelines on alcohol service. Instead an airplane is treated as licenced premises, like a flying restaurant or bar. In theory would have an allowance for BYO, but at the end of the day it's up to the airline's conditions of carriage and your contract with them as a customer.
Air New Zealand has spelled it out saying:"You cannot open or drink Duty Free or your own alcohol on board." While JetStar insists your tipple must be served "as part of [the] in-flight bar service."
My advice is to abstain all together.
The latest advice on drinking on planes might be tough medicine to swallow but it's undeniable:
Alcohol is one of the main factors affecting jet lag. Research by the University of Sydney's Charles Perkins Centre commissioned by Qantas' ultra long-haul division shows passengers who indulge suffer worse jet lag on the other side of a flight.
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