A (Probably Stupid) Idea for Airports

Eno Sarris, September 17, 2015

We get emails in the @beergraphs.com mailbox all the time, and from time to time, there's something interesting in those emails. This time, the email was less interesting than the idea that came after, even if the idea that came after was horrible and terrible and somewhere between currently illegal and futurely unsafe. 

So, the email. Cheapflights.com has an article about the top eight beer-loving airline celebrating Oktoberfest with good beer options in the sky. I'll give the winner's medal to Delta, which serves Stone, Lagunitas, Ballast Point, Sweetwater and others -- well done. That's good enough for me, though Frontier's Dale's Pale Ale would be a fun side bonus to whatever brought me into Colorado that day. 

Didn't really know where to go from there, until I had an idea. You can drink on airlines. You can buy liquor in terminals. There are craft beer bars in terminals. Sooooo...

What about craft beer stores (or sections) in terminals?

It would have to sell everything in plastic or cans, most likely, and so the selection would be limited. However, that selection would be less limited than your typical Big Beer lineup on a Big Airline. Prices would be high, but hey water is like ten bucks a liter so whatever, you know traveling is going to be expensive. I'd love a few cans of great beer, even if sometimes drinking up in the air just gives me a headache. This would be one of those ideas I had for others, because I'm so generous. 

It might be illegal.

This great life hack post about buying liquor at your local store in less than three OZ bottlettes and then running them through security in order to drink cheaply on your flight seemed like it might be my savior, until the author unearthed this gem from the FAA regulations. 

Here’s the biggie:
According to code 14 CFR 121.575 of the FAA Cabin Safety Subject Index: http://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?SID=e3a04c8b0496fddd5a9955cc0b2bf5ef&node=14:

§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.

(b) No certificate holder may serve any alcoholic beverage to any person aboard any of its aircraft who—

(1) Appears to be intoxicated;

(2) Is escorting a person or being escorted in accordance with 49 CFR 1544.221; or

(3) Has a deadly or dangerous weapon accessible to him while aboard the aircraft in accordance with 49 CFR 1544.219, 1544.221, or 1544.223.

(c) No certificate holder may allow any person to board any of its aircraft if that person appears to be intoxicated.

So that may nix the idea. You can't serve yourself, and I suppose that seems like a good idea, and commensurate with existing liquor license laws in bars. You can't really go to a bar and pop open your own beverage, not unless you're really tight with the bar owner or the staff at the time, or the bar owner yourself, really.

However. There is one exception. The corkage fee. You *are* allowed to bring a bottle of something to an establishment, hand that bottle to your server, and then ask them to open it for you and serve it to you, for a fee. This is established and fairly common. And if you read through all the of the comments from flight attendants and former flight attendants and people who know flight attendants on that piece above, it *might* actually be a loophole in the law. 

It's a long shot. But if you are going to be the first craft beer bottle shop in an airport, you're going to have to bring everyone to the table. The nugget for the airlines is a corkage fee. And so the question would then be: how much would you pay for the right to pop open a Sixpoint Hi-Res on your flight? An extra $5? $10? And, airlines, how much would the added risk be worth to you to get a free $5 every time you popped open a beer that you didn't even have to inventory? The terminals will get their pound of flesh, of course, and I'm sure the liquor license in airports is expensive, but if you can get the airlines to play ball, this could get off the ground. 

Provided, of course, that it's not illegal. (It may still be a bad idea.)