Profits from in-flight sales of booze was more than $43 million in a recent four month period. That’s not nearly as much as they earned from checked baggage fees, but it’s still nothing to cry in your beer about.
According to data by the onboard technology company GuestLogix, passengers spend three times more in-flight on alcohol than on food. That’s not surprising, since you can bring snacks from home to eat in-flight, and airport food courts will pack up a pizza or burger to go. But TSA and FAA regulations make it all but impossible for you to bring your own booze on board.
TSA regulations about bringing booze onboard
Remember the 3-1-1 rule. You are limited to items no larger than three ounces each, all of which must fit into a one-quart see-through bag. You would have to fill a bunch of tiny bottles, fit them in your allowable carry-on, and sneak them past guards who might want to confiscate them as contraband.
FAA regulations about bringing booze onboard
The rules say you can bring your own liquor on board, but it must be served somebody certified to do that, like a cabin attendant, who most likely will refuse, saying that’s illegal, and offer to sell you a min-bottle instead.
You could disagree and quote the exact language of Section 121-575 of FAA regulations: No person may drink any alcoholic beverage aboard an aircraft unless the certificate holder operating the aircraft has served that beverage to him. Good luck with that.
According to GuestLogix, sales of liquor, beer and wine account for just over half of all inflight sales, with liquor the overwhelming favorite at 34%, followed by wine (13%) and beer (10%). The survey also indicates that destination and distance affect of both alcoholic and non-alcoholic sales.
In-flight purchases based on destination
Travelers on flights to Las Vegas spent the most, an average of $93 per flight on beverages and snacks. Maybe they thought they would win it back at the slot machines or roulette tables.
Travelers on long-haul flights to the West Coast, and beyond to Hawaii, spent the most on food, beverages, and what is described as “comfort items”. That would be headphones, blankets and pay-per-view entertainment.
Another interesting insight GuestLogix discovered is that in-flight sales across all categories is highest on Sunday.
Billions in profit for baggage and ticket change fees
Still, in-flight sales are a pittance compared with fees for checked baggage and flight changes. The Department of Transportation reports US airlines earned $791 Billion in bag fees in 2013. Add in ticket change fees, and that profit jumps to more than $1 Billion.
The U.S. airline that earned the most from baggage fees was Delta, which earned $400 million, followed by United, US Airways and American.