Don’t Like The Wine Airlines Serve? Consider Bringing Your Own

It used to be that one of the most impressive moments flying Singapore Airlines first class was when a flight attendant offered you champagne at the start of the flight. Would you like some? Why yes. But that’s not the end of the conversation. With a smirk the next question was, “Would you prefer Dom Perignon or Krug?”

However Singapore Airlines is no longer permitted to serve Dom Perignon. Emirates has obtained the exclusive rights to do so inflight. Offering Krug and Taittinger Comtes de Champagne is fantastic. But it occurred to me yesterday that if you do want Dom Perignon you could.. bring some on board yourself, as long as you can source it in the terminal.

Many U.S. airports offer alcohol ‘to go’ which always struck me as strange. If you aren’t going to drink it in the airport restaurant where are you going to drink it? When U.S. airlines weren’t serving alcohol in coach during the pandemic, there was a rash of passengers buying booze in the terminal and drinking it on board. That’s against the rules.

There’s actually no rule in the U.S. against drinking your own alcohol on board an aircraft. Instead, the rule is that you are only permitted to drink alcohol on board that is served to you by a flight attendant.

Air India is banning passengers from buying liquor at duty free and then drinking it on board. I was shocked that hasn’t already been the rule. In the U.S. you actually can bring your own alcohol on board, you just have to give it to a (willing) flight attendant to serve it to you.

Now, vintage-depending I don’t have a preference for Dom over Singapore’s other selections but I could see the case for bringing a bottle, since Singapore Airlines can no longer provision it.

Sort of like Cort McCown’s character Quint in 1987’s Can’t Buy Me Love trying to impress a girl (“I even travel with my own wine. You never know the quality you may encounter at a soiree.”).

A correspondent offers, “We typically bring our own wine on Cathay and crew has been gracious about serving us.” and that they have been “tempted to bring my own Krug on [Singapore] since they don’t serve on the ground in US. But ..figured with 20 hours of flight time, I’d somehow manage.”

However you may want to focus on a good red wine for your next flight, rather than champagne: “The issue is finding chilled champagne airside. [Hong Kong] it’s not a problem. JFK it is! Usually it’s red wine we procure at the airport, if we see something interesting.”

If you’re flying Cathay Pacific in first class, there’s a good chance that the crew will be accommodating and serve the wine you bring on board. But not every flight attendant on every airline is going to react so positively. They’re busy, they may think it’s strange, so you want to build a rapport with them. Be nice, and understand you’re asking for a favor. If they’re not comfortable with it, perhaps they’re not certain it’s ok to do, you can ask someone else. But don’t push!

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I like wine as much (and probably a bit more) as the next person, but I find it strange that fine wine gets so much emphasis in one of the worst possible venues to drink it, where your tastebuds don’t quite work, with food that – at best – is still not that great (excepting perhaps ANA/JAL when I’d rather be drinking sake anyway). I’ve noticed also that the quality of wine is emphasized especially on highly subsidized state owned carriers (including some trying to put a halo around their sort of crappy hard product) and de-emphasized on privately owned carriers relying upon corporate contracts that I would expect to be more careful about the cost-benefit analyses relating to their food/beverage (even SQ has now reduced the quality of its wines to the nondescript level). Personally, if they offered me $100 (maybe much less) off the fare and took away the alcohol, I’d take the deal. I suspect that fine wines are going to go the way of caviar and slowly disappear from the sky as uneconomic.

  2. It’s important to note that, while it may not be banned through regulation, many airlines have company policies that would prohibit crew from opening and serving brought-on alcohol. So, pompously quoting the lack of federal rules on the subject is probably just going to irritate your crew member, who doesn’t care and would get disciplined, anyway.

  3. So… let’s buy duty free champers and ask airline staff to do things that will certainly make them feel uncomfortable, possibly get them fired.

    Yes, let’s be the dream passenger.

  4. Yeah, I just choose AF with their free-flowing French champagne, KLM with pre-ordered Cape bottles, or QR with its fine selection.
    I gave up on Delta a few months ago when the crew couldn’t find margaritas on board, (and I really felt a panic attack coming on. I’ve reliled on Delta margaritas for years and years, despite coming premixed out of an aluminum container–sad, i know) and the next flight had crew that explained to me that the selection had switched to Od Fashions, which I can’t stomach. But my Delta flights are only three hours long, and I don’t need the alcohol. My last Delta flight I stuck with Cran-apple beverage and their new version of the cookie, which I’m not happy about but that’s another story for another day.
    For domestic flights, if I truly were serious about booze, I’d fly Private Jet, like in the classic film, “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.” But I’m notthat wealthy.
    My relationship with Delta FA’s the past couple years has been testy, at best, and I don’t want to push it. Don’t want to end up as a TMZ video just for asserting my rights in the fine print.

  5. The short answer is a resounding “no.” U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations state that drinking your own alcohol on a commercial flight is prohibited, and those who don’t comply could face upwards of $40,000 in fines.

  6. Another benefit of this is that here, the wine really is duty free. Since one is required to declare duty free alcohol, it is only duty free between where it is purchased at a duty free shop and when one goes through Customs. However, here, since one drinks it prior to arrival, it seems that it does not need to be declared.

  7. Your US flight attendants WILL NOT serve you alcohol you brought on board. NEVER. Article is misleading and not factual. Most of wish alcohol was eliminated…it’s the source of majority of in-flight incidents.

  8. @Mak —>. “I like wine as much (and probably a bit more) as the next person, but I find it strange that fine wine gets so much emphasis in one of the worst possible venues to drink it, where your tastebuds don’t quite work…”

    Now let me quickly point out that I have *never* BYOB’d onboard an aircraft, but you have stated the EXACXT reason why it would be a viable alternative: because your taste buds *do* work differently at altitude! Rather than being “stuck” with a wine that might otherwise be perfectly wonderful but at 36,000′ is — uh — less than what it should be, you can select something with enough structure and acidity to be delicious at altitude.

  9. Faa regulations do not allow you to bring your own. Yes you can buy it in the airport usually at a duty free shop. However you are not allowed to consume it on the flight.

  10. Yeah great way to put a crew in an awkward position so your picky alcoholic self can get some fancy champagne just so you can post it online saying a certain airline did it for you. Pathetic. Write some actually useful tips on travel. Remember silence is golden sometimes

  11. The short answer is a resounding “no.” U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations state that drinking your own alcohol on a commercial flight is prohibited, and those who don’t comply could face upwards of $40,000 in fines.

  12. I can’t imagine how much of a diva someone would need to be to feel the need and entitlement to bring their own bottle of Dom onboard because neither Krug nor Taittinger is good enough for them. On a flight. That will end in <24 hours. That's just sad and embarrassing.

  13. That’s not true anymore; most airlines have instituted polices that reflect they will not serve personal alcohol. This is the case with “most american” airlines.

  14. On both of my 5++ hour flights last week..Delta did not have margaritas in a can and the white wine selection was very poor…..SO ice water….

  15. This is a little off topic, but, in the previous century, United used to let you order champagne in advance. The cost was $20, you requested it on board and they would have it there for you. And this was in coach! They also offered birthday cakes.
    Just another sign of how things have changed.

  16. Alcohol causes all the problems on board! US carriers stopped serving during the mask mandate and many now have a 2 drink policy. As stated this article is misleading.
    U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations state that drinking your own alcohol on a commercial flight is prohibited, and those who don’t comply could face upwards of $40,000 in fines. US crews will have you arrested and the FAA will prosecute.

  17. @TJ – wrong on several levels. The problems on board happened *while US carriers weren’t serving drinks on board* and subsided after alcohol returned. Naturally the underlying issue was passenger non-compliance with mask mandates (and how certain carriers responded – United flight attendants handled this better than American’s for instance).

    And FAA regulations do NOT prohibit drinking your own alcohol, they prohibit drinking alcohol that wasn’t served to you by a flight attendant (and a flight attendant may, under regs, serve you your own alcohol). However nowhere in the piece do I suggest this with major U.S. airlines, I give examples of Asian carriers.

  18. @Iamajimm — Since Gary Leff was *specifically* referring to being in FIRST CLASS on Singapore Airlines, and since I have no idea where you live nor where you fly, let me offer my own observations. 1) The quality of wine served on trans-oceanic flights is considerably better than on domestic (U.S.) flights, even in the back of the place — not just F or J. 2) Personally I won’t touch wine on domestic (U.S.) flights; it generally sucks, and life is too short to drink bad wine. 3) I like a glass of wine with my dinner, and when flying internationally, if dinner is served, I will opt for a glass of wine with dinner…and probably a glass of Champagne before (if in F or J, not in Economy). 4) The people to whom you refer as being a “lush” will have no doubt consumed alcohol in the airport prior to boarding. The problems generally start when they are denied service onboard because they’ve already had too much.

  19. @Gary I’ve seen drunk people on planes do the most ridiculous things. One guy spilled his neighbor’s whole breakfast into his lap (his neighbor’s lap), while drunk sleep talking and flailing around. Another woman started hitting on the men on the plane, thinking she was real sexy in her drunken stooper. Yet another group (a whole row) became louder and louder throughout the flight as they drank their wine and decided that *everything* was hilarious…. And, of course, we have the bow infamous peeing incident on Air India.

    If I wanted to go to a bar, i would. But, I’m just trying to reach my destination in peace. Can people really not hold off for a few hours?

  20. CFR 121.575 Alcoholic beverages.
    (a) No person may drink any alcoholic beverage aboard an aircraft unless the certificate holder operating the aircraft has served that beverage to him.

  21. @Airline —> So, as Gary was saying, it *is* legal to drink one’s own alcohol BUT ONLY IF the onboard FAs are willing to serve it. The conundrum is that that’s from the CFR, and that applies *only* to the U.S. Whether that applies only to US airlines, or to all airlines within US airspace, or…depends upon interpretation and supporting FAA regulations, I suppose. OTOH, since Gary was specifically referring only to Asian carriers, I suppose it’s a moot point once they leave U.S. airspace.

  22. @Al LeFeusch —> My first thought upon reading your post was to suggest you stop flying Spirit, Ryan Air, or Air India. ;^) I have not personally kept track, but anecdotally it certainly seems like the overwhelming majority of incidents occur on these three airlines. And — again, this is just me — the ONLY alcohol-fueled incidents I have ever personally witnessed have been on the ground at the gate when passengers have been told they need to pay to check their overstuffed carry-ons by the Spirit airlines gate agent. Never seen it happen in the air. (Does it happen? Yes. I’m only saying I have never witnessed it personally except on the ground.)

    Again, as I said above, most incidents occur because people have *over*consumed alcohol prior to boarding the aircraft. It has nothing to do with pax “not hold[ing] off for a few hours.” It is illegal in all 50 states to serve an alcoholic beverage to someone who is already intoxicated, and given prior actions by various states’ Attorneys General and the Feds, that applies in the air as well as on the ground.

    Personally, I do *not* consume alcohol on (approximately) 75-80 percent of my flights; most of my airborne consumption is wine with dinner on international flights. I have no problem with a) additional training and certification for FAs re: proper service of alcohol, just as servers on the ground are often required to take as a condition of employment, and b) instituting, say, a 2-drink minimum on flights of __________ miles/hours duration.* But a total ban on alcohol isn’t the answer. It’s like gun control — why punish thousands due to the actions of a very few? Enact regulations to control/limit consumption (just as some states limit magazine capacity or the sales of assault rifles), but I see no reason to ban alcohol just as I see no reason to ban private gun ownership.

    * For example, a flight of 500 miles is a significantly different experience than a flight of 5,000 miles.

  23. Pre 9/11 wife and I would bring wine on board AA flights and when upgraded we would ask them to serve it to whoever wanted some. Now we are not able to get it past security to be able to “carry on” the wine. We travel with wine globally but now have it all in our VinGarde Valise wine suitcase!

  24. @JL —> Agreed. I used to travel frequently with wine in my carry-on pre-9/11. Now, it’s all in my VinGarde. This has limited me to carrying one case (12/750ml) bottles of wine as checked baggage, versus as much as three cases back in the days when I could toss some in my carry-on. Certainly a “First World” problem, as they say, but it does mean I cannot take as many bottles to/from Europe as I used to…

    [Note: I have been in the wine trade for 50+ years, and typically bring wine from California to my friends who have wineries and/or are winemakers in Europe, and bring back many bottles as well.]

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