Air travel is stressful, and one of the easiest ways to alleviate stress is to get slightly blitzed. Plane drinks are, however, a little overpriced: Therefore, we feel okay about offering a few sneaky ways to get free libations while you’re flying.
First, appeal to the flight attendant’s humanity. Former Lifehacker Patrick Allan once told me that letting the attendant know you’re a “nervous flyer” and “really appreciate all their help,” gently lets them know you are looking for a little liquid therapy to help soothe your nerves, and will usually result in a free beer or tiny bottle. (You can even throw in a little “I’ll be fine once I get a drink in me hahaha,” but only do this if you can be natural about it.)
If that doesn’t work, aim for a free second round by timing your refill request effectively. Ask for another round after beverage service is over and the cart and card reader have been put away—nine times out of ten they’ll throw you an extra little bottle of booze, rather than drag the card reader out to charge you. (If you’re using a mixer, try and save some from your first round so the flight attendant only has one item to grab; the easier it is for them, the more likely you are to get a free drink.)
If you wish to bypass human interaction altogether, BYOB, and grab some little airplane-size bottles for cheap at your local liquor store. Technically, this is illegal—according to the FAA, “no person may drink any alcoholic beverage aboard an aircraft unless the certificate holder operating the aircraft has served that beverage to him”—so execute this move at your own risk. You’ll get them past TSA without any problems, but you’ll have to be a little sneakier once you get on the plane, because you are technically committing a crime. To seem less suspicious, look into what bottles the airline serves beforehand, then purchase that brand (or brands) of booze. Order a mixer, and once the bar cart has passed and everyone is enjoying their beverages, quietly sneak your little bottle out and make (and enjoy) your drink.
Finally, be polite, know that the lovely flight attendants don’t owe you anything, and thank them for serving you your drinks whether they’re free or not. (It’s okay to be a little evil, but don’t be a dick.)
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