TSA's New Rules for Duty-Free Alcohol

Administration OKs clear, duty-free bottles in carry-ons, subject to screening. We'll toast to that.

The Transportation Security Administration has announced a TSA rule change that should have airline passengers saying "cheers" to the TSA once they’ve arrived safely on international flights at their U.S. destinations.

As of Jan. 31, 2014, duty-free alcohol purchased at foreign airports can now be transported in carry-on luggage, overriding a previous rule that such alcohol must be packed in a checked bag. Travelers previously faced a dilemma when trying to buy alcohol at duty-free airport shops with the checked-bag rule, because usually their bags were already checked while they stared at the cheaper bottles of booze on airport shelves.

The previous alternative, of course, was to purchase the duty-free alcohol on the secure side of a check-point, which allowed the alcohol to be transported in carry-on luggage. However, a traveler would then have to place the alcohol in his or her checked bags when being processed at Customs upon entry to the United States if they were planning to take a connecting flight after be re-entered into U.S. Failing to place the alcohol in a checked bag after being processed at a CBP checkpoint, the alcohol would have been confiscated when going back through TSA screening for that connecting flight.  

The new TSA rules that allows duty-free liquor in carry-ons does come with limitations, though. Bottles must be purchased in duty-free shops overseas, and they must be placed in "secure, tamper-evident bags" (also known as STEBs) that are subject to screening by the TSA.

"Technological advances may allow passengers to keep these liquids in their carry-on baggage," the TSA said, "provided they are presented in a STEB and are able to be screened and cleared by Transportation Security Officers at the checkpoint."

Additional tsa regulations include: once the containers of alcohol are cleared by the TSA for carry-on transport, passengers cannot drink the alcohol on their returning flight; and the containers must be clear in order to be properly scanned at checkpoints. The latter rule means that alcohol in metallic, opaque or ceramic bottles or other containers in which the alcohol is not clearly visible must still be packed in checked luggage.

Alcohol that is in clear containers will be screened using the same liquid-scanner technology that the TSA uses on liquids that are deemed medically necessary in amounts of 3.4 ounces or more.

Learn more about Customs Duty

Jay Bemis
About the author