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Bottoms Up! Survey Looks at Airport and Flight Drinking Habits of Americans

Finds Another Dividing Line in U.S. Culture

/ -- Many know the 12 hours from bottle to throttle adage behind the alcohol intake regulations for pilots and flight crew. Passengers, however, largely write their own rules when it comes to alcohol and traveling. And a survey by, the online leader in finding and publishing travel deals, finds that Americans are as divided by their drinking habits when they travel as they are on many other fronts.

"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 "But a cold beer or a Bloody Mary is a standard part of the journey for many Americans. To help round out our expertise on all-things travel, we did a dive into the drinking habits of fliers and found whether or not you opt for a drink on travel days may be tied to your age (and maybe your expense account) as well as where you're from and your gender."

Our survey of 1,007 Americans found an almost even split between those who drink at the airport or on the plane (49 percent) and those who don't (51 percent). Diving deeper, it turns out that 54 percent of men partake when flying compared to 44 percent of women.

Breaking it down geographically, only 43 percent of those from the middle of the country (east of the Rocky and west of the Appalachian Mountains) tipple in transit, while 51 percent of those from the Eastern Seaboard and 53 percent from the Mountain and Pacific regions do so.

Additionally, the survey showed that those aged 25-35 are the ones leading the way to the bar with 54 percent reporting drinking when traveling followed by those in the 36-50 age group, where 52 percent are likely to belly up. Surprisingly, those between 21 and 25 in age abstain the most on travel days with just 31 percent saying they drink when flying or in the airport.

Drinking when flying: When, where, what and why

Long layovers are by far the most popular time for hitting the bar. Flight delays are the second most common time travelers go grab a drink at the bar. Women and men split, however, on what they drink. The top choice for women is a "fun cocktail or two" followed closely by a "nice glass of wine or two." For men, a "quick beer or two" was the top choice with "a fun cocktail or two" coming in a very distant second.

When it comes to drinking on the plane, free is key. The data shows that 11 percent of those who imbibe on travel days always drink on the plane. However, an additional 37% of this same group will opt to drink when the alcohol is free.

The reasons for a drink are a little less clear cut. Among the respondents who tend to drink when they fly, 23 percent say "celebrating getting away" is the top reason while 21 percent cite "boredom" and 19 percent "socializing with travel companions" as their main motivation.

And the rules for flying days don't match other days. Thirty nine percent of those who do drink on planes and in airports say they tend to start earlier than usual on days they are flying and 19 percent say they drink more than usual on those days. Relatedly, 16 percent of those same respondents report they have been intoxicated in an airport or on a flight while 29 percent have had to deal with a disruptively intoxicated fellow passenger.

Vacation trends

Looking more broadly at drinking on vacation, a few more patterns emerge. Among all the survey respondents (including those who don't partake on travel days) more women (34 percent) opt to drink "something more in keeping with the destination" than men (22 percent). However, more men (24%) "view vacation as my time to drink whatever, whenever" than women (21%). And eight percent generally start drinking before noon on vacation with six percent acknowledging they've begun before 8 a.m. on a vacation.

Lastly, seven percent of all those surveyed report spending more on drinks than food when on vacation.

Findings are based on an online survey of 1,007 Americans conducted in a 48-hour period between September 9 and 11, 2016.

About, part of the Momondo Group
Founded in 1996, Cheapflights is a leading global flight comparison and deals publishing platform. It is now a market leader in the UK, U.S., Canada, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand generating over $3 billion in global downstream revenue for its partners as it expands into numerous other territories. More than 120 million users visit its websites and apps each year, receiving more than two billion search results a month from across 900,000 routes. The 10 million strong opt-in subscribers to the Cheapflights newsletter receive the best deals from over 120 travel businesses -- for whom it has driven more than $65 million in revenue this year. Together, the Cheapflights platforms generate enough bookings for its partners to fill a Boeing 747 every five minutes.

In 2011, Cheapflights became part of the privately owned online travel search and inspiration network, Momondo Group.

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Website: blog post with the results from a survey on the drinking habits of Americans while flying. Over 1,000 Americans were asked about their hows, whys and wheres of drinking when flying. So, how does your celebratory style compare with the rest of the country? Read on to find out.