Flying With Whiskey: FAA And Airline Regulations To Know

Say what you will about our state-by-state patchwork of liquor laws, but it sure makes shopping for spirits in a different state exciting. One of the best parts of travel might be prowling the aisles of the local liquor store, picking up bottles that aren’t distributed in your home market. But before you start filling up that cart so that you later will be flying with whiskey, you should get familiar with the FAA liquor regulations.

Flying with whiskey

How to get all this whiskey home? (image copyright The Whiskey Wash)

Whiskey is, of course, no longer legal in your carry-on bag (unless it’s in one of those little airplane bottles smaller than 3.4 ounces). But you definitely can stash a few bottles in your checked bag, as long as you follow these rules:

  1. Your whiskey must be unopened, and in the original retail packaging. Remember that when you’re contemplating cracking into one of your new scores in the hotel room.
  2. You can’t pack anything over 140 proof due to fire danger – leave your Everclear and 151 at home.
  3. This is an important one. There’s a limit to how much you can pack: no more than five liters per passenger. That translates to 6.6 standard-sized 750ml U.S. bottles. Overshoot, and you’ll find yourself in a position nobody wants to be in – choosing which bottles to “gift” to TSA agents, as our editor in chief found out the hard way on a recent trip back from Kentucky (although these days, they might really need a drink).

The FAA doesn’t have anything specific to say about packaging, but you’ll also want to make sure you carefully pack those bottles to avoid an unpleasant surprise and bourbon-scented wardrobe upon arrival. I’ve always had good luck wrapping bottles tightly in clothes, and packing them near the center of a hard-sided checked bag. Other friends swear by various purpose-made packing tools, like this one designed for wine, but not all whiskey bottles will fit in products designed for wine.

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The FAA aside, it is also important to check with the airline you are flying on for any particular restrictions they might have. Southwest Airlines, for example, requires that “alcohol (wine and liquor) in checked baggage should be securely packaged in a leak-proof bag with adequate professional packaging designed to fit the proportions of the bottle to prevent breakage.” They will also happily sell you said packaging at the counter if you need it.

Now, get out there and start shopping for some liquid souvenirs!