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Regarding the recent incidents and fines the FAA levied it said in the following release: "Federal law prohibits passengers from consuming alcohol aboard a flight that is not served by a flight attendant." (https://www.faa.gov/newsroom/faa-levies-161823-against-eight-passengers-alleged-alcohol-related-unruly-behavior)

Does this only apply to scheduled Airline flights or also to private flights, for example, in a jet with a seating capacity of less than 19 and hence requiring no flight attendant?

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    $\begingroup$ See FAR 121.575 (a) and FAR 135.121 (a). Rule applies to the Air Carrier not specific to a Flight Attendant $\endgroup$
    – 757toga
    Nov 23 '21 at 18:10
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In a carrier plane drinking alcohol is not allowed except when served by the operator, regardless of the number of seats. For private aircraft there is no equivalent rule.

This is not a way to sell more alcohol at a higher price, rather a way to know how much alcohol is drunk and stop serving before aggressive or distracting behaviors develop.


1. Carriers

§ 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.

The actual criteria is the beverage has to be provided by the operator. This applies to all Part 121 operators. The same rule exists for Part 135.

In addition, operators should have related procedures for cabin crew members:

C. Air Carrier Procedures. Air carriers should have adequate procedures contained in crewmember manuals and training programs outlining the specific duties of crewmembers and ground personnel regarding the use and service of alcohol. For example:

  • Procedures to handle disturbances that may occur involving the service of alcoholic beverages;
  • Procedures regarding the removal of a passenger who appears to be intoxicated; and
  • Procedures to handle passengers who may have brought their own alcoholic beverages on board.

2. General Aviation

I was not able to find a similar restriction for Part 91. There is a restriction for carrying drunk passengers (§ 91.17.b) but this doesn't prevent them to drink alcohol when aloft, e.g. from TSB report, for a Cessna 185 accident in 2010:

It is possible the passengers’ level of intoxication contributed to their inability to recognize the gravity of the situation and stop the interference in time for the pilot to regain control of the aircraft before impact.


A final word from this article:

Business aircraft and charter passengers pay handsomely for their private flights, and they expect a high level of pampering and comfort in transit. Serving them fine spirits en route forces pilots and charter operators to carefully weigh the risks, and to determine when and how to say no more.

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    $\begingroup$ I'm sure that keeping track of alcohol consumption was the reason stated when the laws were passed, but I refuse to believe that airlines weren't also motivated by the profit potential of the monopoly on alcohol on their flights when they paid their lobbyists to call on the politicians. Politics is about money more than anything else. $\endgroup$
    – rclocher3
    Nov 24 '21 at 0:05
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    $\begingroup$ There were a few airlines, JetBlue being one of the most prominent, that, before the pandemic anyway, were happy to serve you your own alcohol on board for free, no profit motive there You had to hand the bottle over to the cabin crew, and they'd hold onto it and serve you, both to comply with the regulations and to be able to cut you off if necessary. Given the situation nowadays, I suspect you'll have a much harder time finding a crew willing to do this, and indeed JetBlue has more recently said they won't do this now. $\endgroup$ Nov 24 '21 at 5:47
  • $\begingroup$ @rclocher3 It's not always about money. For example, in business class, you don't get charged extras for alcohol. Even on long haul economy, alcohol is often included. That said, the cheaper your ticket, the more likely you are to be charged for anything else, including alcohol. $\endgroup$
    – Aleks G
    Nov 24 '21 at 14:36

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