HOW TO: bring wine onboard a plane

If there’s one thing that frustrates wine enthusiasts when traveling by air–and, no, we’re not including pat-downs–it’s the liquids ban. Take wine enthusiasts, put them in a giant metal tube for hours on end, thrust their knees into the seat back in front of them and then attempt to ply them with tiny bottles of undifferentiated, $8 wine (credit cards only, please!).

A possible end to the liquids ban was floated a few weeks ago and with it the prospect of salvation for wine enthusiasts on planes. But Janet Napolitano, Homeland Security chief, threw her own Ziploc of cold water on the idea.

Odd as it may seem, there are some options to BYOW on board. Domestically, there are a few wine shops beyond security, such as the chain of Vino Volo locations or the Yadkin Valley wine shop in Charlotte, that sell wine to go. Pick up a bottle at one of these and it will be more fun than a grande latte–as long as you just like looking at the latte, that is. According to Mark Ashley, editor of Upgrade: Travel Better and our Senior Wine and Planes Correspondent, FAA regulations require flight attendants to pour all alcohol onboard planes. He says that back in a bygone era of travel, the flight attendants might have cooperated with a wink and a nod if asked to pour a passenger’s wine for them. But today, he says that is unlikely given the rise in unruly passengers and the general peevishness of the in-flight crew.

The ideal for flying with wine would be to bring a bottle from home. No airport markups. Better selection. But the only place that is going to happen is a foreign country. Japan has allowed liquids on planes (for domestic flights only) since introducing liquid bomb detectors in 2006 (!). Mark Ashley says that another country that allows liquids on board domestic flights is New Zealand, though he is unsure of whether the alcohol consumption policies in these two countries are set nationally or are airline policy.

One indication came on Twitter last year when Hristo Zisovski, a New York-based sommelier, tweeted, “Just got onto the plane carrying a open, half full bottle of Pinot Noir. Gotta love NZ airlines!”

What are your experiences, tips or thoughts about upgrading wine in flight? And please, belts off, shoes off, jackets off as you approach the comments section.

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39 Responses to “HOW TO: bring wine onboard a plane”

  1. Two years ago, I sent Alice Feiring back to New York with three 50 ml sample vials (refillable, meant for lab analysis – and they’re free!) and I believe she still travels with them. Now granted, 150 mls is only one decent glass, but it beats Sutter Home, right?

  2. Bottles can be carried on flights within south america.
    For flights to-from US/CAN/EUR styrofoam boxes can be checked in. I have carried up to 24 bottles. They are especially designed for glass. They can be found at any courier. Recicling boxes one gets when buying online also an option. Done it for 10 years and never lost a single bottle.

  3. Twitter Comment

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  4. I recently returned from CA Sonoma Valley with three bottles of wine in my luggage. I wrapped them in clothing and they survived!

  5. This year I brought 12 bottles back from Italy. A couple were wrapped in clothing, but for the majority of them, I cut the top off of 1.5L empty water bottles, slipped the bottle in stuffed it with La Gazzetta dello Sport taped the top back on and flew home. I have done this several times and have not lost a bottle yet.

  6. I thought we were talking about how to get wine onto a plane so that you could actually drink it during the flight. Having a buzz from something good at 35,000 feet is tough to beat!

  7. Hi Kevin –

    Yes, I had also thought of the vials-in-Ziploc approach before as the only plausible way to BYOW and drink it. But then Mark told me that it is against FAA regulations to serve yourself. I guess you could try to pour on the sly but then you are dependent on your seat companions not turning you in…

    Or go to NZ, apparently!

  8. I really like the 3 50ml vial idea…last time I brought wine on a plane was a decade ago when my sister and I, 18 and 19 respectively, brought a few bottles on board Air France as souvenirs from Paris…if we were savvy enough, we would have brought a corkscrew, but I think we were probably too hazy and hungover from the effects of the 18 year old drinking age in Europe.

  9. The key is to order (something) from the flight attendants that looks vaguely like what you plan to drink, then refill your cup when no one’s looking..,

  10. You are so right, it’s really frustrating. Did you ever try to ask for more? It’s a real challenge.

  11. I don’t know if a refill would be necessary. Just refill your wine and you just may be thought of as a slow drinker:)

  12. My heart was broken and yes I cried a little coming back from France. I could have sworn that someone on-line said that you could still bring wine on board. I didn’t want to put champagne in my luggage for fear that it would explode. Also the dog sniffer detected traces of an apple (already eaten) in my purse so I had a dog all over me that I wasn’t allowed to pet.

  13. Weird … I was on a domestic Delta flight yesterday and watched a flight attendant serve one of those cute, little, overpriced bottles of wine to the passengers in front of me, screw cap on, covered elegantly with a plastic cup. So passengers on that flight, at least, seem to have poured their own. Is the flight-attendants-must-pour rule still in effect? (Or is that, perhaps, only airline-specific?)

  14. Surely most people want this issue resolved not in order to drink wine on the flight, but to bring one or two (unopened) bottles back from, say, France or Italy within hand luggage?

    I don’t know what kind of security threat an unopened bottle of champagne can offer. If a terrorist has found a way to replace the contents of a bottle of champagne without removing the cork or disturbing the foil, he’s a better man than we are!

  15. People are confusing putting wine in luggage checked (which I do all the time) versus taking some on the plane.

    I travel 50-100k US miles a year and drinking plonk (for $6 no less) is a pet peeve. Where I can, I buy a half bottle, and have snuck poured for myself regularly. Sometimes into my own Riedel O (which a bitchy flight attendant was quite rude about once.) (It was the airplane plonk too.)

    I wish the new mini’s were more reasonably priced…if I ever see a sale, I’ll be scarfing them.

    Would love to find some decent travel test tubes tubes to take if anyone has a URL to buy some…better yet, with a carrying case…I mean surely the medical industry must do this! (not with wine 🙂 )

  16. I hate flying these days because of all of the extra over-the-top “security.” I buy an expensive airline ticket and am made to feel like a criminal for going on vacation. I think that the FAA and the governement should wise up about BYO wine on planes. Nobody gets hurt and really, it makes for a more enjoyable flight.

  17. Twitter Comment

    How to bring your assyrtiko back home, Part I: [link to post]

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  18. Twitter Comment

    Important topic by @drvino “How to Bring Wine Onboard a Plane” [link to post] (via @FoodNewsJournal)

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  19. I love a great bottle of wine. I am also a F/A for a major US Airline. It is against FAA policy and most airline policies to bring your own alcohol and serve yourself. You might try to drink your own stuff to save a few $$ or to enjoy a better glass of wine, I get it. But is it worth the possibility of getting fined or arrested??? Please just wait until you are back on the ground or just enjoy what is available onboard.

  20. How about bringing a couple of bottles from this site onto the plane. They fall within regulations, and you can do a tasting on flight if you want!

  21. sorry meant to add that 1winedude mentioned it on his site.

  22. to the F/A for a major airline…its NOT illegal to bring wine onboard; its illegal to pour it yourself.

    Juice…thanks for sharing that. Many of those six packs are $20…thats 2.5 bottles of airplane plonk. Order a bunch now!

  23. And how about a special offer for all you wine lovers from the team — FREE SHIPPING on your first order!
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  24. According to scientists, airline meals lose their taste when eaten at 30,000 feet. A research showsthat people lose their sense of taste when listening to the sort of “white noise” heard inside an aircraft’s cabin.
    The same blandness happens when tasting wines?
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  25. I brought a backpack full of sangiovese juice cartons from Rome to NYC for Chairman Grieco & Juliette The Pope. Ofc I was stopped by security but that’s just bc I must have seemed shifty to the Romans.


  26. as a native bay arean – turned new yorker who then moved abroad first to wine-honoring tokyo then to wine market – centric london (after having both worked in the trade and studied wine closely), i feel it’s my duty, my obligation, . . . much as a missionary spreads the word, . . . to bring novel wine to the uninitiated and then, likewise to return with the best souvenir to be shared among family and friends that best which encapsulates both the place and the people.

    wine-soaked clothes and/or incriminating wine paraphernalia can be replaced but that heart-fluttering moment in time when all the natural elements coalesce and the universe is aligned just can’t!

  27. There are no liquid restrictions domestically in Australia either. I carried 9 bottles of wine, a bottle of port and a 1L bottle of water onto an Australian domestic flight within the last year with no issues whatsoever.

  28. What if there were a corkage fee and the F/A poured your wine for you? Wouldn’t that be a decent go around for the whole “pouring it yourself” controversy?

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  32. I occasionally bring small liquor bottles (less than 3 oz) on a long flight. I’ve never had any problem with TSA as long as I put them in the required “quart-sized plastic, zip-top bag.” However, one time a stewardess yelled at me for pouring my own liquor into my own soda on the plane. Ridiculous! I’m well over 21 years old. ~Andrea

  33. Yadkin Valley wine store at CLT has closed.

  34. The tips in this article were carefully selected specifically to aid new travelers into developing solid strategies for planning their trips.

  35. So I do now regularly take both 50 ml sample bottles I get from Vinquiry as well as Tasting samples. I have pushed the limit a few times and in small airports like Kansas City had some take from me if more than one of the baggies.
    I generally order one of the shitty $8 airline selections (every now and then there is something decent..) its f***ing criminal how airlines markup this plonk 500+% btw, and then pour myself. The one time I asked permission I got yelled at, and I did get spotted once and read the riot act at deboarding, but generally am discrete.

    I’d drink beer instead, but they also only serve swill there as well, and I don’t do hard liquor.

    Unfortunately, because of a few bad eggs, I can see why airlines wouldn’t embrace allowing people to pour for themselves, but don’t get why the ‘ask permission’ part is such an issue. and I don’t get why it would be that hard to make better wine available.
    It hard enough being locked in one of these damn metal tubes 2-4x a week, with travel amateurs, screaming babies, or a coworker! 🙂

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  37. I don’t think this is problem that needs a lot of attention. As stated by other commenters, it should be possible to survive a few hours without good wine.

  38. As a wine enthusiast and a flight attendant I know this is a horrible idea. Sure, YOU will be responsible and savor your beverage but what about the everyman who will abuse this and use it as a cheap way to get drunk on the plane (think about that chatty person sitting next to you, would you like it if they were half in the bag the whole flight?). Also, with all that stale air and crowded space, the plane does not sound like my ideal place to enjoy a fine wine. What a waste. As someone who cares for your saftey, the saftey of the flight, and the preciousness of your bottle, all I can say is HELL NO!!!

  39. If you have an office and go through a lot of laser cartridges, most of them come with a very thick long bubble wrap. I save them and can put a bottle of wine in it and dirty clothes around it. It works!!!


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