Indian regulations do not permit the serving of alcohol on domestic flights in India. This is a surprise to many international flyers, accustomed to alcohol on domestic flights in other parts of the world. (Indian airlines do, however, serve alcohol on international flights.) This wasn’t always the case.
A time when alcohol was served on domestic flights
There was a time when airlines were allowed to serve alcohol on domestic flights in India.
Prior to the 90s, only the government-owned Indian Airlines was operating on domestic routes; no liquor was served on those flights. However, this changed in the early 90s. Government policy changes began to allow private operators to fly domestic routes.
A lot of players entered the arena, allowing the aviation industry to become more competitive. Travelers now had a lot more choices.
Private airlines saw this as a golden opportunity to strengthen their customer base. They improved in-flight services and introduced domestic flyers to international flying standards. Private airlines began serving liquor on domestic flights.
Private airlines used free alcohol as an incentive to attract prospective flyers. Damania Airways was the first private airline in India to introduce alcohol as part of its in-flight service. The Indian aviation industry had revolutionised, and business for private carriers began to boom.
Too good to last
However, this did not last long. An unfortunate incident onboard one of Damania Airways flights made the government review its decision.
It involved a passenger who got drunk on a flight operating between Kolkata and Mumbai. The inebriated passenger misbehaved with fellow passengers, resulting in a fistfight in the skies. This led to the ban on liquor on all domestic flights.
Why domestic flights in India don’t serve alcohol
This one incident of misbehaviour by a drunk passenger caused the government to ban alcohol on all domestic flights. There were other incidents of misconduct reported too, but this one was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
The liquor ban in Indian skies is stringent and applies to international airlines as well. No airline is allowed to serve alcohol over Indian skies. Airlines can serve liquor after their flights cross the Indian border and on flights to India; which is what international carriers do.
What do the regulations state?
The regulations are clearly defined in the rule book of Aircraft Rules, published in 1937 and updated in 2011.
The rules state, “No operator operating a domestic air transport service in India shall serve any alcoholic drink on board such an air transport service and no passenger travelling on such a service shall consume any alcoholic drink while on board.”
Not only are airlines prohibited from serving alcohol on domestic flights, but carrying alcohol as part of cabin baggage is strictly prohibited. Passengers who arrive at Indian airports carrying duty free liquor must put it in their checked baggage.
No alcohol on flights means safer skies
The decision to ban alcohol on domestic routes is wise. It helps prevent unforeseen incidents that can occur onboard flights. Handling inebriated passengers is not easy.
Cheap fare domestic airlines
Most airlines that operate on domestic routes in India are no-frills, cheap fare airlines. They do not offer refreshments or meals. Only water is free.
Other airlines that do not serve alcohol
There are a few international airlines that do not serve alcohol, even on international routes. Most of these originate from Islamic nations. The ban on alcohol on these flights is for religious reasons.