You can buy water on most flights but some people may want a particular brand (although water is water in my opinion) or perhaps may not want to pay airline prices.
The airport security liquids rule is probably the most common rule that passengers fail to understand properly so end up having their liquids, including bottled water, confiscated by the security agent.
So can you take water on a plane and, if not, what are the alternatives?
The Quick Answer
- You can take water through airport security but only if it is in a container that is no larger than 3.4 ounces/100ml.
- Empty water bottles can be taken through security and filled after passing through.
- Water can be taken on a plane if purchased after the security checkpoint.
Can you bring unopened water through TSA?
The TSA (Transportation Security Administration) rules regarding taking any liquids through an airport security checkpoint, including water, are very strictly adhered to.
The TSA liquid rule states that you cannot take any liquids in containers that are larger than 3.4 fluid ounces (100 ml) including water, through airport security, irrespective of whether the bottle is sealed or not. Those liquids that are within those dimensions must be carried with other liquids into a quart-sized, resealable clear plastic bag.
It is the size of the container, not the amount of liquid in it that counts!
There would be very little purpose in taking a bottle of water that was only 3.4 fluid ounces in size as that would hardly quench anyone’s thirst.
In most airports, when you join the line to go through security there will be notices reminding you about the maximum liquids rule and bins provided for you to dispose of any water or other liquids you have which are larger than 3.4 ounces.
Also read: How many ounces on a plane?
Can you take an empty water bottle on a plane?
You can bring an empty water bottle through airport security, but not if the water bottle contains any water at all.
It doesn’t matter if it is a stainless steel water bottle, a glass water bottle or some other type of hydro flask made of aluminum or plastic as long as it is an empty bottle otherwise it will be confiscated by the security agent – even if it only has a small amount of water in it.
You can buy many different types of water bottles. These reusable water bottles are available on Amazon Go on – save the planet!
Although you may hear people talk about an “airline-approved water bottle”, actually such a thing does not exist. You can take any type of water bottle on the plane with you.
How big of an empty water bottle can you bring on a plane? There are no restrictions on the size of an empty water bottle that you can take with you.
You can actually bring water on a plane
Although you cannot take water through the TSA checkpoint, you can still take water on the plane with you. There are a few options.
- You can buy bottled water in many airports after you pass through airport security. The departure lounge in many airports will generally have more than one airport convenience store that sells water.
- You can take a reusable water bottle through TSA security screening checkpoints and then fill it from a water fountain in the departure area, which many airports are now providing for passengers. These days reducing the use of plastic bottles is very on trend so taking a reusable bottle is also a very good, green option.
But remember, the bottle must be empty!
If it has any liquid in it, even if there are less than 3.4 ounces, then it is not allowed through airport security.
Once you pass through security there is no actual limit on the amount of water you can take with you on a plane. You are limited only by the amount you can fit in your carry on bag.
Can you take water in your checked bags?
As with many things, even items that are potentially contentious from an airport security point of view, you can often pack them in your checked bags. Water is no exception so you can put it in your checked bag or bags if you are taking any.
Personally, I cannot really see why you would want to pack bottled water in checked luggage as water is heavy so it would use up much of your limited checked bag weight allowance.
Of course, the exception might be if you are traveling to a country that has very poor sanitation and where sterile water is not available. It may make sense to at least carry some in that case.
For full details of the checked bag liquids rules please see my post How much liquid can you take on a plane in checked baggage?
Why can’t you bring liquids on a plane?
As you have read, you can actually take water onto a plane with you, you just cannot take it through the security checkpoint. At least not in a container larger than 3.4 ozs.
But you should remember that airport security is trying to stop potentially dangerous liquid explosives, disguised as water, from being taken on a plane. This did happen a few times before these regulations were introduced.
If you do take water in a container that is small enough it will be screened separately and may be tested for explosives by a TSA agent.
If any size water bottle was permitted then they would all need to be screened separately and that would cause huge delays at security, which no one wants.
Exceptions for taking water on a plane
Exceptions for babies
The TSA liquids rule (link to TSA website) applies to all passengers but is relaxed for parents who are traveling with a baby.
Parents often ask can I take baby bottles with water through airport security? A parent may take sufficient bottled water with them for the baby during the flight, either to drink as water or to use to make up baby formula. The same applies to boiled, sterile water.
You can also take quantities of ready-made formula or expressed breast milk over the 3.4oz/100ml liquids rule limit to feed the baby during the flight.
The water and other liquids for the baby do not need to go into your liquids bag but you should separate them and inform the security agent that you have them as they may require additional screening.
It is perhaps obvious but worth saying nevertheless that you must actually have the baby with you when you pass through airport security to be able to take the above with you.
There is no hard and fast rule that defines exactly how much water you can take through the TSA checkpoint with you when traveling with a baby. You are permitted to take sufficient water for your baby to drink or to make up baby formula for the duration of the flight and until you reach your final destination.
Exceptions for fish!
Another exception to the liquids rule applies to those passengers who are wishing to bring live fish on board an aircraft with them. In this case, the amount of water can be greater than 3.4 fluid ounces but there are a few additional requirements:
- The fish must be alive and swimming!
- The container they are in must be clear plastic or glass and be spill-proof
You should notify a security agent that you have the fish as they will want to make a visual inspection. Also check with your airline to make sure they allow live fish to be carried and if flying internationally check customs regulations.
Exceptions for frozen water/ice
Frozen bottled water or any frozen liquids larger than 3.4 fluid ounces can be taken through security in your carry on bag provided that they are completely frozen when you pass through the security checkpoint.
Can you bring a hydro flask on a plane?
You are permitted to take a hydro flask through airport security provided it is completely empty. Once through security, you can take it on a plane either empty or full by filling it from a water fountain or using bottled water purchased from a store.
Can you take unopened drinks on a plane?
You can take unopened drinks in cans or bottles on a plane if they are purchased after passing through the security checkpoint. However, you cannot take unopened drinks through TSA security unless they are no larger than 3.4 ounces.
Can you take an aluminum water bottle on a plane?
You can take an aluminum water bottle through airport security provided it is completely empty. Once through security, you can take it on a plane either empty or full by filling it from a water fountain or using bottled water purchased from a store.
Does a water bottle count as a personal item?
A water bottle is unlikely to be counted as a personal item by any airline. If it is in your carry on then it certainly will not.
Can you take water on a plane? Water and any other liquids in containers no greater than 100 ml/3.4oz are allowed through the airport security checkpoint and must be placed in a single resealable quart-sized bag.
There are exceptions for those traveling with babies or live fish.
You can take larger quantities of water onto the aircraft if purchased after the security checkpoint.
I have been traveling around the world by air since the early 70s and living overseas too. I worked for British Airways for a number of years and I am also a private pilot. About Me