What Age Do You Have to Be to Drink Alcohol on a Plane?


When traveling internationally from the United States, it may be tempting to assume that you may be under the legal drinking age of 21 in the United States.

well you might be right But you could also be wrong — It all depends on which airline you’re flying with.

Below we provide some guidance on the minimum drinking age for various airlines on both domestic and international flights.

Domestic flight age limit for alcohol

The standard minimum drinking age for all domestic flights is 21 as shown below.

If you plan to bring alcohol on a US airline flight, you should know that carrying alcohol is a little more complicated.

First, we are not allowed to serve alcohol on board. For most airlines to happily agree to serve alcohol, you’d have to get flight attendants — At least not on paper.

There are also restrictions on the types of alcohol you can bring in.

Some alcohols are so strong that they are flammable and cannot be carried onboard (carry-on or checked baggage). Other types of alcohol must remain in their original packaging.

Be sure to read this complete guide to ensure you’re adhering to alcohol restrictions on flights and when passing through the TSA.

Standard drinking age policy for international flights

A typical policy encountered is that the legal drinking age found in the airline’s home country is the legal drinking age in effect on board the aircraft. This may apply regardless of where the flight departs from, lands on or is flown over.

For example, imagine you were flying from Houston to Cancun on Southwest Airlines. As of this writing, the legal drinking age in Mexico is 18.

As such, you may assume that alcoholic beverages can be consumed on that flight by anyone over the age of 18. However, Southwest is a US-based airline, so US law applies and the drinking age remains 21 for him.

But let’s say you were flying from Houston to Cancun on Aeromexico, an airline based in Mexico.

As previously mentioned, the legal drinking age is 18 in Mexico and Aeromexico gladly serves alcohol to persons over the age of 18. This is true even if the passenger on the flight to/from the US is a US citizen. A passenger’s nationality has nothing to do with the actual applicable law.

This all makes sense given how the law is usually applied on planes.

Generally, when an aircraft is on the ground, the laws of the land country apply, but when it is in the air, the jurisdiction of the country in which the aircraft is registered may apply.

If you go to different countries, you will find that the drinking age varies from 18 to 21 years old. Some are a little higher, some are a little lower.

But knowing the drinking age in a country is a little more complicated.

Why Things Get A Little Complicated

First, in case you didn’t know that certain countries don’t allow alcohol consumption.

In countries where the consumption of alcohol is prohibited, it may not be possible to consume alcohol on board.

For example, all Saudi Arabian airlines ban alcohol, as do other airlines such as Egypt Air, Kuwait Airways, Pakistan International Airlines and Royal Brunei Airlines.

For countries like Egypt, alcohol is allowed on the ground but not in the air. As such, it is not always possible to match country policies with airline policies. This is similar to alcohol being banned in the Maldives, but not in resort areas.

Sometimes it’s a little more complicated.

You may come across a situation where you are allowed to bring in alcohol, but you are not allowed to drink. This seems to be the case with EgyptAir. For example, you can bring a duty-free bottle of alcohol that’s sealed without issue, but you can’t drink it on board.

There may also be restrictions on the percentage of alcohol you can consume based on your age. Finland is a good example of this, where you have to be of a certain age to import alcohol above 22%.

Finally, some countries do not have a national drinking age, as ages vary by region and state. For example, in Canada, the legal drinking age is 19 or older in all provinces and territories except Quebec, Manitoba and Alberta where he is 18 or older. Air Canada is based in Quebec, so anyone over the age of 18 can drink on Air Canada.

Therefore, if you are under 21, we recommend that you check with your airline regarding the legal drinking age. Additionally, if alcohol consumption is not permitted on board, it must be made completely clear whether alcohol can be transported.

What about when you fly with your parents?

In the United States, some states allow drinking under the age of 21 with parental permission. The problem is that this may only apply to drinking in private, such as at home. (Normally, planes aren’t considered private his areas, but you could argue that you expect privacy in certain suites.)

In some states, people under the age of 21 are allowed to drink in public as long as a parent is there and consents.

Some airlines may allow exceptions to this type of parentage and allow persons under the minimum age to consume alcohol.

Don’t assume you know how it works because there are different ways governments deal with this problem.

Legal drinking age limits for US airlines

As you can see from the data points below, all US airlines require you to be 21 or older to consume alcohol.

american airlines

21+

(confirmed by the representative)

delta

“21+”

Link to policy

jet blue

“All travelers (21+) can also enjoy complimentary beer, wine and liqueurs.”

Link to policy

southwest

“You must be 21 or older to drink alcoholic beverages”

Link to policy

spirit airlines

“Regulations prohibit passengers from consuming their own alcoholic beverages en route, and passengers must be at least 21 years old to be served alcohol.”

Link to policy

United

“Alcohol can only be served to customers over the age of 21.”

Link to policy

International Airlines and Their Minimum Drinking Age

Below are the drinking age limits for various international airlines. These were confirmed by surveys or conversations with representatives.

However, we always make extra efforts to verify these as they are subject to change.

  • Aeromexico: 18
  • All Nippon Airways: 20
  • British Airways: 18
  • Emirates: 18 (some say 21)
  • Lufthansa: 18
  • Qantas: 18
  • SAS: 21
  • Singapore Airlines: 17
  • Duration: 21
  • Virgin Atlantic: 18

You may find that some airlines are more lax about enforcing a minimum drinking age. You do not need to give your card to

As a rule of thumb, the more modest you are, the less likely you are to be denied alcohol on a plane.

The last word

In most cases, the minimum age for in-flight drinking depends on the minimum age allowed in the airline’s home country.

However, as we saw above, there is not always a direct relationship between the ages, and there are some exceptions that can apply.

So the best you can do is contact your specific airline and inquire about the minimum age for alcohol. When in doubt, stick to sparkling water.

Daniel GilaspearDaniel Gilaspear

Daniel Gilaspear is the founder of UponArriving.com and the creator of the credit card app WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned full-time credit card rewards/travel expert who has earned and redeemed millions of miles to travel the world. Since 2014, his content has been National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, US News, Business Insider. Find his full bio here.

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