Last Updated on December 4, 2021
Your airline should inform you about the liquid limits for flying or they will be published somewhere on your airline’s website.
But it’s not your airline that sets the rules or enforces them.
It doesn’t matter if your airline is Alaska, Allegiant, American Airlines, Delta, Frontier, Hawaiian, JetBlue, Southwest, or Spirit. All airlines have the same liquid allowance because the liquid regulations are set by the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) and enforced at the airport by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).
There are actually three limits that you need to know about before flying.
Let’s take a look at them now.
TSA / Airline Carry On Rules
Your carry-on bag will be inspected at the airport security checkpoint by the TSA and they will make sure you are not exceeding the liquid allowance. Your airline won’t look inside your luggage at all.
Limit A – Travel Size Containers
The first airline liquid limit is that you must pack liquids in travel sized containers. Travel sized means bottles or containers that are 3.4 ounces or less.
If 3.4 oz strikes you as a strange amount to choose it’s because that it’s equivalent to 100 ml.
It’s the size of the container that is important, not the amount of liquid remaining in the container. So you can’t bring a 5 oz bottle when there is only 3 oz remaining inside.
Refillable travel size containers are a great money saving purchase because you can just fill them up from the big bottle you have at home. Buying travel size versions of products is expensive.
I like to use a collection of bottles and containers of different sizes. There is no sense in packing 3.4 oz of liquid if you only need 1 oz for your trip. A kit like this would be perfect:
The TSA considers liquids, gels, aerosols, pastes, and anything that you can smear or spread to be a liquid.
My favourite example of this is peanut butter. Peanuts are treated as a solid, but peanut butter is considered a liquid by the TSA.
Limit B – All Containers Must Fit Inside A Quart Size Bag
The second airline liquid limit is that all your travel size liquids must be packed in a one quart size bag.
You can buy a reusable ‘TSA Approved Toiletry Bag’ that isn’t actually TSA sanctioned but will work anyway. Or you can use a simple resealable bag like a Ziploc plastic baggie that has the capacity of 1 quart.
You might be able to fit 6 or 7 travel size bottles in a quart size bag. If you buy a reusable one then you’ll probably fit more since they are not actually quart-sized but you’ll probably get away with it.
Limit C – Only One Bag Per Passenger
The third airline liquid limit is that you are only permitted one plastic bag per passenger. You can’t bring two liquids bags if you are bringing two suitcases. It’s 1 bag each maximum.
There is no way around the one bag rule. If you are struggling to fit all the liquids you need in one bag the best way to deal with that is to try to substitute solid versions of products.
For example, a solid bar of soap can replace shower gel.
A solid stick deodorant can replace an aerosol spray.
You can even buy solid toothpaste tablets that might suffice until you are able to visit a local shop.
My top tip is that the TSA doesn’t consider wet wipes to be a liquid.
So if your liquid product is available in a wet wipe form then the wipes will make a great substitute and free up space in your liquids bag. Makeup cleansing wipes are a good example.
These three airline liquid rules are called the 3-1-1 by the TSA:
- 3.4 oz containers
- 1 quart sized bag
- 1 bag per person
There also a 4th restriction about the type of liquids you can pack. Let’s call it Limit D.
Limit D – No Flammable Liquids Unless They Are Toiletries
You can’t bring flammable liquids or hazmat liquids even in containers smaller than 3.4 oz unless they are toiletries.
My favourite example of this is that you can bring bug repellant that you apply to your skin, but you can’t pack an aerosol bug killer spray even if it’s under 3.4 oz because it’s flammable and not a toiletry.
The TSA defines a toiletry as something that you use on your skin.
Exceptions To The Airline Liquid Limit
The liquid limit that your airline talks about is only for getting past the TSA security checkpoint.
It’s not a limit to how much liquid you can bring on the plane, it’s a limit to how much liquid can be in your carry-on bags when you go through the screening process at airport security.
That means that if you buy any liquids after the security checkpoint then you can bring them on the plane no matter what size they are. So you can fill up your water bottle after the TSA checkpoints.
There are also a few cases where you can bring containers larger than the 3.4 oz regulations normally permit.
- You can bring breast milk, juice, liquid foods, or drinks for infants in reasonable quantities
- On international flights you can carry duty free liquids in a secure tamper evident bag
- You can bring medically necessary liquids in containers larger than 3.4 oz and you don’t need a doctors note.
If you have a container of liquid that is larger than 3.4 ounces and you think it qualifies for an exemption then feel free to place it in a separate bin at the x-ray machine for additional screening.
Airline Checked Baggage Liquid Limits
Liquids are not limited in checked bags as strictly as they are in carry-on luggage.
Only Limit D from above applies. You cannot pack flammable or hazmat liquids in checked bags because of the fire risk.
You can pack as much beer or low strength wine as you like but you can only pack 5 litres of alcohol that is between 24% and 70% ABV. Alcohol over 70% ABV is prohibited because it’s too flammable.
Lastly any toiletry aerosols that you pack in checked luggage should be in containers smaller than 18 oz and you are only allowed to pack 70 oz per person of toiletry aerosols in checked luggage.
The Bottom Line
The liquids rule that your airline talks about is actually the FAA carry-on liquids rule that will be enforced by the TSA at the airport.
There are 3 limits or restrictions. Containers can be 3.4 oz maximum. They all need to go in a one quart size bag. And you can only bring one liquids bag per person.
There are exceptions to the regulations for medically necessary liquids or liquids for babies and infants.