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Flight Folly: The Perils of Purchasing Alcoholic Drinks at Airports

Why you should think twice before buying alcoholic beverages at the airport

Flying can be a nerve-wracking experience for many people, and it’s not uncommon for individuals to seek ways to relieve their anxiety while in the air. Some passengers turn to alcoholic beverages as a means of coping with their fear of flying. However, before you reach for that cocktail at the airport bar, it’s important to understand the potential drawbacks of consuming alcohol at high altitudes. In this article, we explore why you should think twice before buying alcoholic beverages at the airport.

Alcohol and dehydration

One of the main reasons to think twice about drinking alcohol during a flight is its diuretic effect. Alcohol increases the production of urine, which can lead to dehydration. This is especially problematic when you’re at 31,000 to 38,000 feet, where cabin humidity levels are significantly lower than what you experience on the ground. The World Health Organization reports that cabin humidity can be less than 20%, compared to the average home humidity of 30%. As a result, the dry cabin air, combined with the dehydrating effects of alcohol, can leave you feeling parched and uncomfortable.
To reduce the risk of dehydration, experts recommend drinking less alcohol than you normally would on the ground and making sure you stay properly hydrated by drinking water between sips of alcohol. Hydration is critical to maintaining your overall well-being during a flight.

Effects of alcohol and cabin pressurization

In addition to its dehydrating effects, alcohol can have a greater impact on your body when consumed at high altitudes. The lower cabin pressure can slow your body’s absorption of oxygen, causing you to feel lightheaded. This means that if you choose to drink alcohol during a flight, you may feel intoxicated more quickly than you would on the ground.
It’s important to exercise caution and moderation when consuming alcoholic beverages on an aircraft. The combination of alcohol’s effects on the body and the altered cabin conditions can increase the likelihood of experiencing discomfort and negative side effects.

Alternative Approaches to Flight Anxiety

If you’re someone who experiences fear or anxiety when flying, there are alternative approaches you can consider to alleviate your discomfort without relying on alcohol. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Deep Breathing and Relaxation Techniques: Practice deep breathing and relaxation techniques to calm your mind and body during the flight. Focusing on your breath can help reduce anxiety and promote relaxation.
  2. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT is a therapeutic approach that can help you reframe negative thoughts and beliefs about flying. Working with a trained therapist can provide you with effective strategies to manage your anxiety and build confidence in air travel.
  3. Medication for anxiety: If your fear of flying is severe, you may want to discuss the option of prescribed medication for anxiety with your healthcare provider. Medication can help reduce anxiety symptoms and make the flying experience more manageable.
  4. Distraction techniques: Engage in activities that take your mind off the anxiety, such as reading a book, listening to music, or watching a movie. Keeping busy can help shift your focus away from anxiety-provoking thoughts.


While it may be tempting to have a drink or two to calm your nerves during a flight, it’s important to consider the potential consequences. The dehydrating effects of alcohol, combined with the altered cabin conditions, can cause discomfort and even increase your anxiety. By understanding the risks associated with alcohol consumption at high altitudes, you can make informed decisions about how best to manage your fear of flying. Exploring alternative coping mechanisms and strategies can help you have a safer and more enjoyable travel experience. Remember, your well-being and comfort should always be your first priority when traveling by air.


Can I drink alcohol on a flight without any adverse effects?

While it is possible to consume alcohol during a flight, it’s important to be aware of the potential consequences. Alcohol can dehydrate your body, and the dry cabin air and lower cabin pressure can intensify its effects, leading to discomfort and an increased risk of experiencing negative side effects.

How can I stay hydrated during a flight if I choose to drink alcohol?

If you choose to consume alcohol during your flight, it’s important to stay properly hydrated. Drink water between sips of alcohol to counteract the dehydrating effects. Remember to drink in moderation and be aware of your body’s hydration needs.

Will alcohol make me more susceptible to high altitude intoxication?

Yes, the combination of alcohol and altered cabin conditions can lead to a more rapid onset of intoxication. The lower cabin pressure can slow your body’s absorption of oxygen, making you feel lightheaded and increasing the likelihood that you will become intoxicated more quickly than you would on the ground.

Are there other ways to cope with flight anxiety besides drinking alcohol?

Absolutely! There are several alternative approaches to managing flight anxiety. Deep breathing and relaxation techniques, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), anxiety medications (if prescribed by a healthcare professional), and engaging in distraction techniques are all effective strategies to consider.

Is it better to wait until after the flight to have an alcoholic beverage?

Waiting until after the flight to consume an alcoholic beverage may be a wiser choice. By doing so, you can avoid the potential discomfort and negative effects associated with drinking alcohol at high altitudes. Consider celebrating a successful landing with a drink instead of drinking before or during the flight.

Can alcohol make the symptoms of fear of flying worse?

While alcohol may initially provide a sense of relaxation, it can actually worsen the symptoms of fear of flying in the long run. Alcohol can impair judgment and increase anxiety levels, potentially exacerbating your fear rather than alleviating it. It’s important to explore alternative coping mechanisms that promote true relaxation and confidence during air travel.

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