One of the first flights I ever went on by myself departed Philadelphia International Airport at 6:30am. As I got in the taxi to go to the airport around 5 o’clock that morning, I remember feeling absolutely exhausted. I knew there was a long travel day ahead of me, and I could hardly keep my eyes open for the short taxi ride to the airport!
Desperate for an energy boost, I decided I would visit Starbucks when I got to the airport. A quick boost was sure to be all I needed, and Starbucks coffee is always good for that!
I knew you couldn’t bring large liquid items in carry-on bags or a water bottle. Logically, this restriction should apply to a cup of coffee too, right?
You Can’t Bring Coffee Through Airport Security (Mostly)
If you have ever been through an airport security checkpoint, you know meticulous TSA agents are. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is tasked with protecting all air passengers passing through airports, and you can’t blame a TSA officer for taking their job seriously. The security checks at every TSA checkpoint are crucial to providing you with an enjoyable experience in the skies.
With that being said, the liquid restrictions can certainly be frustrating! As you are only allowed to take 3.4-ounce containers through security, you can kiss away any hopes of bringing liquid coffee with you past security. While you could get away with ground coffee, that likely wouldn’t do you any good!
Loophole for Getting Liquids Through Security
While you can’t bring a mug of your own coffee through security at an airport, there is one loophole you can utilize if you really need some java. Technically, you can bring just about any liquid through airport security as long as you follow TSA’s 3-1-1 rule. While this is a lot of hassle just for a cup of java, desperate times may call for desperate measures.
What Is TSA’s 3-1-1 Rule?
TSA’s 3-1-1 liquids rule is its policy governing liquids that can be brought through security at an airport. Passengers can bring containers of no more than 3.4 ounces that fit in one quart-sized bag.
Whether they are in your backpack, carry-on baggage, or on your person, these limits apply to each passenger, not just each item passing through the x-ray machine. While this policy is specific to the United States, most foreign countries operate with a very similar set of rules.
How to Bring Coffee Through Airport Security
3.4 ounces of liquid is not very much. By typical measures, this is equal to about one double espresso shot. The rule was designed more for items like baby food, breast milk, toothpaste, and shampoo, none of which are meant for adult consumption.
With that being said, you are absolutely allowed to bring brewed liquid coffee through airport security. You just need to make sure that it is in 3.4-ounce containers that all fit within a quart-sized bag. If you take a 12-ounce cup of coffee and divide it evenly between four containers, you can technically bring it through security at an airport.
So long as you bring an empty bottle or an empty travel mug along with you through security, you can pour all four containers together once you pass through the security checkpoint. While this may sound like a good idea, it may be too much of a hassle for some people. There is a good chance that the airport you are in will have a coffee shop after security, and paying the $5 for a cup of coffee after security may be worth it to avoid all of the hassle involved to bend the rule.
Can You Bring Starbucks on a Plane if You Buy it After Security?
Starbucks has begun to dominate the global coffee industry, and almost every major airport has at least one Starbucks store. Many travelers, including myself, can’t even imagine passing through an airport without grabbing a cup of Starbucks coffee! Starbucks drinks have become like a ritual for us when we fly, and we know that plenty of people feel similarly.
The only liquid restriction you will encounter in an airport is when you pass through security.
The only exception to this is that any alcohol you buy in a duty-free store must remain sealed throughout your time in the airport and on your flight.
If you buy Starbucks coffee in the airport terminal building at any point after security, you may bring it with you onto the airplane. There is no need for additional screening. You are free to enjoy your Starbucks java throughout your flight!
Can You Bring Coffee Grounds on a Plane?
While you can bring coffee and other hot drinks on a plane, you may be wondering if the same policies apply to coffee grounds. After all, coffee grounds are not liquids, so airport x-ray machines do not usually flag them.
Regardless of whether you pack them in your personal item, carry-on luggage, or checked bag, coffee grounds usually count as an agricultural product.
While most people only think of solid food items like fresh vegetables and fresh fruits as agricultural products, powders and liquids count too. Each country is responsible for creating its own list of prohibited items. As such, it’s likely that each different country you visit will have its own specific rules governing the importation of coffee grounds.
Pro Tip for Bringing Coffee Grounds on a Plane
One of the best things you can do if you want to bring coffee grounds with you on a plane is to leave them in their unopened retail packaging. While this isn’t by any means a guarantee, many countries’ customs departments, including U.S. Customs, will turn a blind eye to coffee as long as it is in its sealed original packaging.
The final decision rests with the individual customs officers who are on duty, but leaving the coffee in its sealed, original packaging at least demonstrates to the officer that the coffee likely isn’t carrying any diseases or contaminants.
Is Starbucks More Expensive at the Airport?
Air travel is expensive, and airfare isn’t the only costly part. Things in the airport terminal all tend to be more expensive than elsewhere, from the gift shops to the restaurants and beyond. With Starbucks, it tends to be the same story.
While Starbucks isn’t usually drastically more expensive in the airport, it is usually marked up at least a little. While this is inconvenient, you should expect this. The logo on a Starbucks coffee cup will always raise the price, and being in the airport only raises it a little bit further.
How to Save Money with the Delta Starbucks Partnership
As I mentioned earlier, Starbucks is a travel day ritual for our family. We would much rather grab something from Starbucks than a full service restaurant while traveling, as we know that it is always a consistently good option.
In 2022, our favorite coffee company announced a partnership with our favorite airline. Delta and Starbucks announced a partnership that allows their rewards members to earn points when using one another.
Once you link your Starbucks Rewards and Delta Skymiles accounts, you will receive one SkyMile per dollar spent at Starbucks every day, as well as double Stars at Starbucks each day you have a flight with Delta. Delta is one of the nicest and most trustworthy airlines in the United States, so this partnership is a huge win for consumers.
Thanks for reading our post on bringing Starbucks on a plane. Travel days can be demanding, and you can rest assured knowing that you can bring a cup of Starbucks on a plane with you as you jet off to a new destination.
What is your favorite airplane beverage? Drop a comment below.