I’m Having A Glass Of Wine On A “Dry” Airline…

Filed Under: Kuwait Airways, Travel

I’m presently flying from Kuwait to New York on Kuwait Airways. The flight has a two hour stop in Shannon, Ireland (starting in a couple of weeks the flight will finally operate nonstop in both directions). I’ll have more thoughts on the flight soon, but for now wanted to share something I found especially interesting.


As many of you probably know, some airlines are “dry,” meaning they don’t serve alcohol. Some of these dry airlines are from countries where alcohol is prohibited across the board (at least on paper), while other dry airlines are from countries where alcohol can only be consumed under certain circumstances.

Earlier in the year I flew EgyptAir, which is a dry airline. A reader mentioned to me that I could bring on my own alcohol and the crew would gladly let me consume it. I didn’t try it at the time, but was intrigued.

Well, given that I’m flying Kuwait Airways (also a dry airline) with Ford, I figured I’d test this out. I’m not doing this because I can’t go a day without a drink, but rather because I’m curious to test the policy.

On the Kuwait City to Shannon flight earlier today I asked the flight attendant about this:

“I’m just curious… I know that Kuwait Airways doesn’t serve alcohol, but am I allowed to bring on my own alcohol to drink?”
“Yes, certainly. As long as you stay sober you can do that.”
“Okay, so we can buy a bottle of wine in duty free in Shannon and bring it on our flight to New York?”
“Yes, there will be a crew change, but I’m sure they’ll be fine with it as long as you stay sober.”

So we bought a bottle of sauvignon blanc at duty free, and brought it onto our flight to New York. I didn’t want to be secretive, so I asked one of the flight attendants on the second flight for permission (I didn’t even reference what the flight attendant told us on the previous flight).

“We bought a bottle of wine in duty free, and was wondering if it’s okay if we drink it onboard?”

“Of course, that’s not a problem. Let me get you some glasses.”

She returned a couple of minutes later with some glasses, and even apologized that she didn’t have proper wine glasses.


Bottom line

I was skeptical that you can actually bring your own alcohol on dry airlines, though it seems to be the case. I doubt this will work on all airlines (for example, I’d be surprised if Saudia or Royal Brunei allow it), but it seems like it works on some.

It’s ironic that the policy on these airlines is exactly the opposite of virtually all other airlines. Airlines that serve alcohol have a policy of not allowing you to bring your own alcohol on a flight, since it makes it easier for people to get drunk without the crew being able to stop them. In the case of some dry airlines, they encourage you to consume your own alcohol, it seems.

Again, I can live without a drink on a flight, but thought this would be an interesting experiment. To those who refuse to fly “dry” airlines, the good news is that many of these airlines simply have a BYOB policy.

  1. Not that I have done it but I have heard that Royal Brunei permit this. I’ve seen it reported on a forum from a frequent traveller that he regularly brought a bottle of gin and the cabin crew supplied glass, ice and mixers.

  2. I’ll pop the cherry with the most obvious comment first:
    You can’t live a day without a drink, Ben ;p

  3. Yes, it seems to be the US airlines that are obsessed with you not taking your own alcohol on board. But then they have the cheapest policies about onboard drink anyway – United doesn’t even serve free alco drinks in economy any more.

    I would never pick a dry airlines, but I’d take a special job out of smuggling some booze on a US airline and surrepticiously glugging it like it’s water.

  4. BYOB! Incidentally, before they implemented the 3oz. rule, AA allowed BYOB in first class as well, as long as the flight attendant was serving the wine.

  5. Did you ask them if it was ok to be gay? I’m being serious. Doesn’t Kuwait kill people for that “offense”? Just like the rest of the middle east which you’re oddly in love with? I don’t get it.

  6. Royal Brunei allows this, or at least used to in the past. Not sure about now. I wouldn’t try it with Saudia, Ariana Afghan “Air Taliban” or Iran Air.

  7. US federal regulations state it is illegal to open your own bottle of alcohol on an aircraft or drink alcohol that was not served by the crew

    It’s prohibit from the UK and as far as I’m aware from Ireland too. Therefore KU is possibly in breach of local regulations

    Hypocrisy too from a so called ” dry” airline, but not surprising

  8. Great to know, especially if you’re not testing an airline out but rather stuck taking the flight because of other circumstances. For short flights it wouldn’t matter much, but I’d be hard pressed to endure a long haul without imbibing.

    I notice for test purposes, you chose not to risk too much. 😉

  9. @Lucky — You obviously have a drinking problem, have you considered getting treatment/rehab/counseling? You say you can go a day without having a drink, but that’s what they all say. 🙂

    At least you didn’t try to bring aboard a six-pack of Coors/Bud/Miller Light, they should have thrown you off the plane for that.

  10. It is odd that they permit this since Kuwait itself is a dry country so if you were originating there you wouldn’t be able to get booze anyway, and if coming from somewhere else I imagine you’d have to finish it before landing. So maybe it’s so rare a case that they haven’t even thought to ban it?

    It is also odd that they allow this since part of the prohibition on alcohol is based on the idea that observant Muslims shouldn’t just abstain themselves, but should avoid others who are drinking too — so in theory other passengers could be annoyed or offended that you were drinking in their presence. Conceivably a particularly devout passenger might even have specifically chosen a dry airline to avoid being in a situation where they were surrounded by people drinking.

  11. Did you book the super cheap fare out of Cairo or did you manage to get another deal? Based on your post, I booked out of Cairo to JFK (connecting in Kuwait City) for Oct. Hope their seats are lie-flat by then :-0

  12. We need to have our own regulations too. No head scarf allowed to be worn in the plane for instance on any American Airlines flights from countries that won’t allow own alcohol to be brought on plane (or serve their own)

  13. It’d be interesting to see whether this permission is OK in coach class, as opposed to business class? Presumably, the cabin you fly shouldn’t matter, but there might be more resistance especially if you are flying in closer quarters with certain people that object to alcohol…

  14. Stu – honestly – what’s on paper versus what actually happens in these countries is very different. I’m gay, I’ve lived in the Middle East – in the UAE – and it was one of the gayer places I’ve ever lived. everybody I worked with was either gay or gay friendly, even the locals. Yes, there are these laws on the books, but the reality is very different. Go out and actually learn and experience something rather than be so sheltered and stereotyped.

  15. I thought Kuwait had canceled flights to the US because they could not sell tickets to Jews . Am I thinking about some other airline or just totally mixed up ?

  16. There is a lot of hypocrisy in Muslim countries when it comes to alcohol, tobacco, sex and sexuality, and other vices.

  17. @Dalo
    Kuwait is not allowed to carry local passengers between London and New York. The need to do so is going away now that they’re about to fly nonstop from kuwait to new york anyway.

  18. @Lucky – Royal Brunei absolutely lets you. A huge part of their market is taking Aussies from Melbourne to London via Brunei and many people BYO.

  19. Love this! I would bring my own bottle on every flight on a US carrier as the wine is typically horrid. I have been so delighted flying on foreign airlines as the wine choices are typically palatable.

  20. Apparently the word “sober” doesn’t mean what I think it means.

    “As long as you stay sober you can do that.”

    So, you can consume alcohol, as long as you stay “sober”? And here I thought sober meant *zero* alcohol. Silly me. I’ve been misinterpreting it all these years.

  21. Exactly, Randal. I thought Lucky was providing that quote only to later make fun of it (which I missed if it happened). Clearly no one would be sober after actually consuming any of the wine.

  22. Carl and Randal – Using the term “sober” to mean “not drunk” is a completely standard way of using that term that’s in widespread use across the English speaking world.

  23. @Dalo

    Kuwait Airways has no issues with transporting Jews; Jews commonly travel throughout the Gulf, including Saudia Arabia. KU does have a policy, though, of denying boarding to passengers with Israeli passports.

  24. Kuwait is said to be the most secular country in the Middle East. They allowed it because you’re not a muslim and thus you are not bound by their Shariah Law.

  25. After 4 years of living in Kuwait this is news to me. However, when departing Kuwait there is no alcohol to buy, when departing a country with alcohol, you normally have the 100ml liquid limit or duty free won’t sell you alcohol travelling to Kuwait (for the fact alcohol is illegal). The only way I have found a way around this is if you say you’re transiting through Kuwait not officially going through immigration. As far as I’m aware, Shannon is the only non direct route where possibly you could get around this but someone probably would prove me wrong.

  26. Just so that you know, Kuwait prohibited alcohol not for religious reason, but due to increase of road accidents because of drinking. A couple of decades ago alcohol was allowed in the country.

  27. Yeah, I wouldn’t try that on Saudia. Does Saudia even have any fifth-freedom flights? I don’t think so, so you’d be doing it either on the way to Saudi, in which case you’d probably be arrested, or you’d be trying to do it on the way out of Saudi, and I don’t recall seeing any alcohol in the Duty Free …

  28. “It is odd that they permit this since Kuwait itself is a dry country”

    In theory it is, yes. But there is a thriving black market for alcohol, and as long as you are careful with purchasing and consuming it, you can have alcohol. For what it’s worth, many wedding in Kuwait feature alcohol, even at wedding of Muslim Kuwaitis. There are restaurants that will even serve you alcohol if you bring the bottle with you. In both bases, you just have to be very discreet.

    “I thought Kuwait had canceled flights to the US because they could not sell tickets to Jews”

    No, they aren’t allowed to sell tickets to people with Israeli passports. Not the same thing.

  29. Either Kuwait has progressed over two decades or the above comments don’t describe reality. I rather believe the latter. Kuwait prohibits the consumption of alcohol but you can drink discreetly by buying it underground or make it yourself. It is totally a religious issue. There are more road accidents in Kuwait because there are no traffic laws and car insurance and drivers cannot handle speed. They used to ride camels before petro era. However, it is a more moderate Muslim country, not secular, than others,except the UAE. Male readers who continue asking Lucky about gay issue in foreign countries exhibit gay adverse attitude towards the blogger himself, not the foreign cultures. Of course, hypocricy and religion always join at the hip.

  30. I like how you have to try and convince yourself you don’t have a drinking problem by mentioning that you supposedly don’t need a drink everyday

  31. I don’t like to consume alcohol inflight as it makes me very dehydrated. Having said that, if you want to keep at this hobby for a long time, keep yourself healthy. Top athletes such as Lebron James, keep themselves in top form to play as long as possible. If you don’t keep yourself in good health, no amount of flying Etihad residence will make you happy.

  32. Guys I live in Kuwait and now I will tell u the truth. They say in Kuwait if u drink while outside in Kuwait u will get jailed but they allow u to drink on board since u aren’t on their soil! Now u all understand why?

  33. Nice job, your flight crew is in prison now, waiting for their hands to be chopped off, their sons are deported back to whatever shithole they came from and their wife and daughters are now in some dudes harem. But at least you got some clicks and had a nice grapefruity and peachy Sauvignon Blanc

  34. I’ll believe it. Emirates serve predeparture champagne on flights out of Afghanistan, another ‘dry’ country.

    Cheers skip

  35. In an odd way, it kind of makes sense. The airline is supporting home country norms (?) but doesn’t force it completely on international pax

  36. Since Kuwait doesn’t allow Israeli passport holders on its flights either, I wonder if you can bring Manishewitz from duty free.
    Shouldn’t racist airlines be boycotted.

  37. In the good old days I used to carry a 375ml bottle of good wine in my carry-on. Order a glass of wine from the flight attendant. Drink that and then refill discreetly from my half bottle. Much better than the wine offered.

    However, for those that have wondered if airlines really serve wines that taste awful, I can tell you from that personal research that wine simply does not taste as good at 39,000 feet. The pressue, the dulling of one’s senses, and other factors contribute to this.

    Today, if I am flying international first class and am offered a glass of tete de cuvee Champagne, I pass. Not worth having the negative effects of alcohol while flying without the full pleasure.

  38. ptahcha, You can geta round the 3 ounce restriction by buying in duty free

    JoeMart, Ask the crew for an ice cube

    Icarus, The rule is one thing but the issue is whether it is enforced, If a passenger isn’t being drunk and obnoxious, the cabin crew will let it go, and especially if you paid a lot for your ticket, although then of course you probably have free booze anyway, unless a dry airline.

  39. Wow didnt know that can happen. Im actually worried about the crew now. I hope no one sees it. As for LGBT, I’m a gay kuwaiti guy and the laws here are confusing. Sometimes not forced and sometimes severely forced. It depends on how their mood is against LGBT.

  40. Mavuro – Israeli isn’t a race, so it’s not racist. Though it is xenophobic.

    If you want to boycott Kuwait because of that then go ahead, just like I partially boycott Israel (not zealously before someone points out my processor was probably designed there etc!). One of the wonders of living in the free world is the ability to (largely) decide who you do business with. Make the most of it!

  41. Diabolical. That’s why Lucky does all this flying. He can get round this drinking every day thing by jumping timezones. The bloke has thought of everything!

  42. British Airways allow this too, lots of people doing it since they when BOB in short haul economy. So the comment about this being illegal in the uk is incorrect!

  43. Duty Frees usually only sell wine at room temperature. So you bought a bottle of white wine a drunk it warm ? That’s a big No-No in a wine world 🙂

  44. @Mavuro Israel isn’t a race, it is a nationality. Boycotting them is political, not racist.

    @Dhsjjssj Oh please, KU has always had an unofficial policy of BYOB (the second B is for booze) since…forever. I remember flying them out of JFK in the mid-90s, when first class passengers had access to Lufthansa’s old lounge. People in the lounge would take some of whatever they wanted from the lounge, give it to the FAs after boarding, and it would be served to us when we wanted. Ah, the pre-9/11 days of flying…

    Now granted, I would recommend people be a bit more discreet than Lucky was on this flight, with regards to showing off the alcohol during the flight as he did, in case you do get that one person who would be outraged over the issue. But overall, people bringing their own booze onto a KU flight while flying premium is hardly a hush-hush secret.

  45. @ Alex Kim — I bought a cheap Sauvignon Blanc, not Dom Perignon. 😉 So a few ice cubes works just fine, in my opinion.

  46. Allow me to toast the bullish customs official at KWI who confiscated the bottle of DOM provided to me as a thankyou by the staff at RITZ CARLTON DUBAI. I guess he had forgotten the US had liberated Kuwait and couldn’t manage to turn his head as I know they do on a “selective basis.” No need to return to that country or experience that airline.

  47. I imagine Saudia might subject you a public flogging if you consumed the demon alcohol on board.

  48. ok, so as a Kuwaiti i feel the need to clear some things up :

    -Being gay is not illegal or punishable in Kuwait, Gay sex (as well as premarital straight sex, for that matter) is punishable by a fine and prison time. So no, Lucky will not get in trouble for being gay, unless he was having sex on the flight. I am a gay Kuwaiti myself and keep myself familiar with the law, which is how i stay out of trouble.

    -Kuwait and Kuwait Airways do not ban Jews from flying/entering the country. Kuwait does not recognise the state of Israel, therefore does not recognise the Israeli passport as a valid travel document. Their issue is with the country, not the religion. I know many Jewish people living and travelling through Kuwait without any issue. (Im not agreeing with this, just stating facts. I personally do not think the Israeli citizens should be discriminated against because our governments are not on the same page)

    – All the people worrying about the crew getting in trouble, they wont! This is normal practice on Kuwait airways premium classes. Drinking is not as severe a crime as everyone is making it out to be. In Kuwait if you’re caught with alcohol it gets confiscated and thats pretty much all that happens most of the time.

    – Finally i felt the need to reply to @Mark:
    So because the US lead coalition liberated Kuwait, you feel like you have the right not to follow local laws? Im perplexed by your comment. I disagree with alcohol prohibition as much as you, but the law is the law. Until its changed you have to follow it regardless of what your nationality is.
    Finally regarding the “selective checks” i think we all know the American airports are just as guilty with the “random” security checks that are just randomly more likely to happen to you if you’re a certain race ;).

  49. The looser could have offered to check it until my flight to the US the next evening.
    Give me a break, we all know he either consumed the bottle or sold it.

  50. We have flown Royal Brunei some years ago and it was OK to bring BYO alcohol (beer, whisky) and drink it on board (MEL-BWN-FRA). When left for a transit city tour the BYO alcohol had to be left with a staff member at the airport and then collected for the next flight. No problems at all!

  51. BYOB sounds like a splendid idea! I wish the US carriers would warm up to the idea. If I’m going to drink, I’d like something decent rather than the swill they sell in tiny bottles.

    I’m not sure I’d do this on a dry airline though. The airline has their reasons for being dry, and passengers who choose to fly the airline might indeed do so because it’s dry, and I respect that. Not criticizing Ben for doing so, as the cabin crew didn’t seem to take issue with it either.

  52. Flying Royal Brunei Business Class from Melbourne to Brunei is always fun to see who brings on which bottles from the duty free shop on this DRY flight. The crew are more than happy to keep your Krug chilled!

  53. im italian, drink wine every day and got drunk only once in my life (im 43) and not in Italy lol
    i understand you wanted to take wine on the flight definitely, i would too

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