They say getting from A to B is just part of the journey, that the other half is the experience in getting there – this is the mantra that many carriers hold, especially in their premium cabins. In this regard it’s important to look at the carrier as an extension of their home country – take British Airways for instance as an ambassador, of sorts, of British Values. This naturally translates to the experience on an aircraft.
When on a flight there really isn’t much to do, you can watch a movie on the IFE screen, look out a window, or even read a book but there is nothing really tangible to review – except the food and drink.
Its, therefore, no surprise that alcohol plays an important status symbol for carriers, I would even go as far and say they are being judged by what they serve – from offerings like signature cocktails to offering their own craft beers, to playing to the elite and serving expensive champagne – like JAL serving £620 bottles of “Salon Cuvee S” champagne in first class. Call it what you will, airlines pander to the social desires of its travellers – but what happens if you can’t.
This is particularly true for middle eastern airlines, where consumption of alcohol is often prohibited by a combination of Islamic law and plain old tradition. although, just because the carrier is based in the middle east doesn’t mean they are all dry airlines – take Emirates whom, as part of their “Vintage Collection” release fine wines on select routes which have matured for over 15 years before being allowed to be consumed on a flight.
Gulf & African Carriers who do serve alcohol
While the below carriers are known to serve alcohol on flights – it’s important to note that the policies could change during Ramadan or if you are flying into a dry country
Carriers who serve alcohol except on certain flights
As of January 2016, Malaysia Airlines imposed an alcohol restriction on flights of less than three hours. This rule was brought in to appease the airline’s customers, the majority of which are Malaysians from various faiths.
Unfortunately, Flyer talk isn’t so forgiving with an entire thread slating the airline for this, driving the view that the move to remove alcohol on short-haul flights was yet another cost-cutting measure by the then CEO Peter Bellew (who came from Ryanair) on the flag carrier.
Oman air offers alcohol on its flights except on domestic sectors.
From December 2019, the carrier reduced its offerings on short and mid-haul flights for its economy passengers and only serving hard spirits on long-haul flights. Multiple articles, such as Bianet, state that Gin, vodka and Raki will not be served in short flights. As for scotch, it will only be served in the international flights taking more than six hours and only a single brand of scotch, namely Ballantines, will be served.
However, the article suggests this could be a result of the B737 Max crisis affecting the bottom line – so there is potential hope of the service returning.
Dry Airlines with A “Bring Your Own” policy
These carriers are dry airlines but they are at times flexible if you ask permission and bring your own bottle.
Like the others on this list, the airline does not serve alcohol but people who bring their own alcohol and ask to consume it are allowed.
Remember the flag carrier of the tiny, hyper-wealthy nation is majority-Muslim. What this means is that if you land in the Kingdom of Brunei – the alcohol will be confiscated from you – so be prepared to finish off whatever you have with you while in the air.
One of the stranger ones you will find on this list. Being the flag carrier of an Islamic country, EgyptAir doesn’t serve alcohol on its flights – even though it is sold throughout the home country without much restriction.
Call it a quirk or a USP but there are no limitations on consuming alcohol within its conditions of carriage, therefore, if you bring your own bottle (or can) on board you will be permitted to consume it. Don’t be afraid to ask for a cube of Ice.
However, TPG reached out to Egypt Air who responded “We don’t serve alcohol on our flights, however, we are happy to provide setups to passengers on select routes” – the key here is the mention of “select routes” which is probably a subtle note for routes which enter strict Sharia law observant countries like Saudi Arabia – it’s therefore advisable to ask the crew first to avoid any awkward situations.
Completely Dry Airlines
The list below are carries who are all dry airlines and in no circumstances will alcohol be served on a flight.
Indian Domestic Flights
While not specifically a carrier, Indian regulations do not permit the serving of alcohol on domestic flights in India. This is a surprise to many international flyers, accustomed to alcohol on domestic flights in other parts of the world.
India has one of the most restrictive rules for its carriers (which is an article onto itself), the rules requiring a carrier to operate routes domestically for a set number of years before being able to start international routes has made it’s domestic fiercely competitive as airlines struggle to survive. How you ask? Private carriers used free alcohol as an incentive to attract prospective flyers – what could go wrong.
One inebriated passenger and an ensuing fistfight onboard the aircraft was enough to cause the government to ban alcohol on domestic flights. The Aircraft Rules book, published in 1937 and updated in 2011 state, “No operator operating a domestic air transport service in India shall serve any alcoholic drink on board such an air transport service and no passenger travelling on such a service shall consume any alcoholic drink while on board.”
What this means is that not only are airlines prohibited from serving alcohol on domestic flights but carrying alcohol as part of cabin baggage is strictly prohibited. Passengers who arrive at Indian airports carrying duty-free liquor must put it in their checked baggage.
Saudi Arabian Airlines
As a strict Muslim country, due to Islamic Law, it is illegal to produce, import, or consume alcohol in Saudi Arabia. It’s no surprise that the flag carrier is just the same. Saudia (and by extension its low-cost subsidiaries Flyadeal and Flynas) have one of the strictest rules about carrying and consuming alcohol. As per its conditions of carriage, point 184.108.40.206 states that “SAUDIA is strictly prohibited using or carrying alcoholic beverages on board of its aircraft.” Even IATA (the industry body) weighs in and states that alcoholic beverages are prohibited even for transit passengers. In short, no alcohol can be served or is permitted to be brought onboard any of its flights.
Saudia even puts a cheerful spin in on its website, stating “Alcohol is especially harmful to proper hydration – not a problem as this is not served on board”.
As a side note: due to the local laws, carriers which would normally serve alcohol will not serve alcohol on flights to and from Saudi Arabia while others will lock the cabinets up just before landing.
Kuwait Airways is in the same boat as Saudia – it’s the flag carrier for another dry nation and therefore no Kuwait aircraft carries alcohol onboard. Similar to the rules of Saudi Arabia you aren’t allowed to bring any alcohol on board, as well as, have any alcohol while transiting through Kuwait. The rules are enshrined in the conditions of carriage (clause 7.1.3) which state “We may refuse carriage of any passenger or passenger’s baggage for reasons of safety or if… the passenger has failed to observe any of DGCA, KAC by-laws… such as and not limited to…. Consumption or carrying of Alcohol” on board.
However, it has been documented by some travellers that if you kindly ask, you may be allowed to consume a bottle on the flight on the basis you do remain sober of course.
Jazeera is Kuwait’s largest private airline (Kuwait Airways is the country’s flag carrier.) Alcohol isn’t served on board, but you can take it with you.
As per its conditions of carriage (clause 9.1) – “If you conduct yourself aboard the aircraft so as to endanger the aircraft or any person or property on board…. including but not limited to those with respect to smoking, alcohol or drug consumption… we may take such measures as we deem necessary to prevent continuation of such conduct, including restraint.”
Pakistan International Airlines
PIA is one of those carriers people do not normally find themselves on – be it from their ban to the USA in the late 2017 or in mid-2020 when it was banned from flying into the EU. Be it as it may, if you do find yourself on the national carrier, note that as a condition of carriage point 11.2 states that “You are not allowed to consume alcohol aboard an aircraft (whether purchased as duty-free or otherwise obtained)”. However, by those rules, passengers are allowed to carry along their own booze. Serving alcohol was previously allowed on PIA flights up until the 70s when alcohol was banned in Pakistan.
As one of the stricter Islamic airlines, Iran Air prohibits alcohol on board its flights in any way of form.
According to IATA guidance on Iranian customs “Holding alcoholic beverages and old books or magazines is prohibited.” – who knew.
Based in Tripoli, Libya, state-owned Afriqiyah Airlines is another dry carrier – being such a small carrier not much is known other than first-hand accounts on Skytrax.
Put bluntly, on the FAQ’s on Alcohol and smoking – the carrier notes “Smoking and alcohol are prohibited onboard Air Arabia aircraft” – nothing more, nothing less.
Other Notable Mentions
Other dry airlines whodo not serve alcohol include: