Getting a Drink On a Flight is Still Hard to Do

Safety protocols reducing contact between passengers, flight crew remain in place

By Blue Sky Staff

Published February 22, 2021

Read Time: 3 mins


As airlines slowly recover from the devastating effects of the global pandemic, one part of the air travel experience may be among the last to return to some semblance of normal.


“There are so many restrictions, so I wanted to reach out to the airport to check on the availability to grab a drink,” Nicole Milewsky of Steubenville, Ohio, recently told Blue Sky News.

Last March, Milewsky canceled plans to travel through Pittsburgh International Airport on her way to West Palm Beach, Fla. Now, with restrictions slowly lifting and some destinations offering access to COVID testing at resorts and airports, she’s planning a new trip to be married in Cancun, Mexico, this May.

“I do get a little nervous about flying, so I look forward to relaxing and having a drink at the airport or on the airplane to officially kick off my vacation,” she said.

Most airlines are still restricting food and alcohol on their flights as part of health and safety measures imposed early in the pandemic to reduce physical touchpoints between flight attendants and passengers.

Some airlines, including  JetBlue, American, Delta, United and Southwest, have eliminated certain offerings or moved to more limited offerings, such as individually wrapped food and bottles of water. Most have encouraged passengers to bring their own food and non-alcoholic beverages on board.

Of course, there are exceptions. Getting something to eat or drink might depend on the airline, your destination, the length of your flight time—and if you’re sitting in first class.

In airports, airport concessionaires have begun to reopen for food and beverage service, but those changes can be dependent on local state mandates.

In Pennsylvania airports, bars and restaurants had to suspend their alcohol sales in June and again the day before Thanksgiving.

With additional safety measures in place, airport concessions have started to reopen., but it can be challenging for passengers to keep up to date with the latest changes.

Can you bring your own?

Well, yes, you can. But you can’t drink it. Some airlines have noticed an increase in passengers bringing their own alcohol, according to USA Today. But Federal Aviation Administration regulations do not permit passengers from consuming any alcohol onboard an aircraft that was not served by the airline.

The rule also helps flight attendants monitor the number of drinks each passenger is served during a flight. Airlines are prohibited from serving alcohol to passengers who appear to be intoxicated.

So even though you can’t drink that mini bottle of vodka on board, you can transport it on the plane, through your carry-on or checked luggage.

According to the Transportation Security Administration, mini bottles of alcohol are permitted in a passenger’s carry-on luggage as long as it is able to comfortably fit into a single quart-sized bag and is under 3.4 fluid ounces.

For those who want to bring full-size bottles of alcohol, packing them in a checked bag is the only option.

Alcoholic beverages with that are 24 to 70 percent alcohol are limited in checked bags to 5 liters (1.3 gallons) per passenger and must be in unopened retail packaging. Alcoholic beverages with 24 percent alcohol or less are not subject to limitations in checked bags.

Airline wine club?

With all the restrictions and fewer passengers, some airlines find themselves with a surplus of supplies. This has prompted one major airline to get creative.

In January, American Airlines launched an at-home wine delivery service, Flagship Cellars, which ships the carrier’s premium wine directly to your house. The new program features a wine collection that is normally served to their “Flagship” travelers on international and transcontinental flights.

Customers can select from curated collections of mixed wines, build their own custom box, or purchase a monthly wine subscription, which includes three prestigious wines for $99.99, including delivery.

“For wine lovers around the world, wine provides a deeper connection to the places they enjoy visiting.” said Alison Taylor, chief customer officer at American. “We created Flagship Cellars to provide more ways for customers to enjoy our Flagship wine even if they aren’t flying in one of our premium cabins.”

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