Lonely Planet Writer

Almost half of US travellers enjoy a pre flight drink at the airport

The USA is split in half over one pressing cultural issue; whether or not you drink alcohol while travelling.

Piña colada cocktail drink, Key West.
Piña colada cocktail. The drinking habits of American travellers often change at the airport. Image by Justin Foulkes/Lonely Planet

A recent survey found 49% of US travellers drink at the airport or on the plane, compared to 51% who do not. The gap widens between genders as 54% of men drink while flying, compared to 44% of women. Perhaps surprisingly, younger flyers aged between 21-25 are the least likely to drink at just 31%, but 54% of 25-34 year-olds can be found propping up the airport bar.

A glass of whiskey before your flight perhaps?
A glass of whiskey before your flight perhaps? Image by curraheeshutter/Getty Images

A migration to the airport bar is most likely to be spurred on by a long layover, with flight delays coming a close second. When travellers reach the bar, a gender divide appears again; women are likely to opt for a fun cocktail or glass of wine, whereas the majority of male drinkers prefer to down a quick beer. What about when travellers board the plane? Eleven per cent of respondents said they always drink on the plane, but a further 37% will drink alcohol if it’s free. The main motivation for drinking is to celebrate their vacation, closely followed by boredom and the desire to socialise with their travelling companions.

The drinking habits of American travellers often change at the airport
Four Tom Collins cocktails on a bar.

For those people who do indulge in a drink on travel days, all normal rules are thrown out the airplane window, as 39% of people start drinking earlier than normal, with 19% drinking more than usual. It’s unsurprising then, that 16% admit they’ve been intoxicated at the airport while 29% have dealt with a disruptive and intoxicated passenger.

Champagne sangria.
Champagne sangria. Image by funkyfrogstock/Shutterstock

The survey was carried out by Cheapflights.com who examined the drinking habits of American travellers. “With airports now filled with everything from newsstands to nail salons and boutiques to bistros, there are an increasing number of ways to entertain yourself when you travel,” said Amanda Festa, editor at Cheapflights.com. “But a cold beer or a Bloody Mary is a standard part of the journey for many Americans.”