Have you tried airline food, particularly in coach? Personally, I wouldn’t feed most airplane food to a cat. So bringing food on a flight in their hand luggage to eat is something most people would prefer to do, particularly if it is a long flight. But can you bring snacks on a plane and if so, is there anything you cannot take?
The TSA allows almost all types of snacks through the security checkpoints, as long as none of them are in liquid form and exceed 3.4 ounces. This means you are pretty free to bring whatever type of snack you want, although some may be subject to additional screening.
Of course, most airlines will wheel a food and drinks trolley around during the flight, unless it is particularly short, so you can buy some airplane snacks on board too if you wish.
Can you take snacks through airport security?
There are no restrictions on taking any solid food items in the form of snacks through a security checkpoint at the airport.
They can be left in your hand luggage when the bag goes through the x-ray machine as they do not need to be screened separately so you do not need to remove them and place them in a tray.
Any foods that may be in liquid or cream form may need to be screened separately and in some circumstances, if they are deemed to be considered liquids under the TSA liquids rule and are larger than 3.4 ounces (100 ml), then they may not be permitted past security.
Even if they are smaller than 3.4 ounces they will have to go in your quart-sized liquids bag so you may struggle with sufficient room in the bag along with your other liquids such as toiletry.
The TSA offers a very good service on Twitter (@AskTSA) where you can ask a specific question about whether you can take something through the TSA security checkpoints and they will respond quickly.
This is an example of someone asking about taking peanut butter cups through airport security, which are considered a liquid under the TSA liquids rule and the TSA’s reply:
Snacks that will be considered a liquid by the TSA
The following are examples of the types of food that, due to their physical state, would be considered to be liquids by the Transportation Security Administration.
If they are smaller than 3.4 ounces then they still may be allowed through security but they must be separated in your liquids bag:
- peanut butter cups (see above) and simply peanut butter (but ok in a sandwich)
- yogurt (or any creamy dessert)
- hummus and other dips
- ice cream (although this will probably be melted anyway by the time you get on board and take off)
- cheesecake (yes as the cream part is basically a paste so treated as a liquid. The exception might be baked cheesecake where the creamy part is more like cake than cream.
Most popular airplane snacks to bring
These are some of the most popular and convenient snacks to take on a plane to eat during a flight:
- potato chips, nachos and other similar snacks
- fruit (see Can you bring fruit on a plane)
- cheese and crackers (make sure it is solid cheese and not cream cheese)
- dried fruits
- candy (see Can you bring candy on a plane)
- granola bars
If you are traveling with a baby or a young child then the liquids rules are relaxed so baby foods, even if liquid or creamy, will be permitted without having to adhere to the 3.4 ounce size. You can also bring baby formula.
As well as baby food you are permitted to take things like yogurt etc for the child to eat during the flight but you must advise the security officer before screening commences that you have these as they may require additional screening.
Can you take snacks on a plane that you buy at the airport?
You should remember that the restrictions above apply to what snacks you can take through airport security, and not necessarily what you can actually take on board the plane with you.
For example, if there are stores at the airport, after passing through airport security, then you can buy reasonable quantities of anything they sell to take on board with you (water, drinks, snacks, chips, sandwiches etc).
This is irrespective of whether they are liquids, gels or fully solid and also without worrying about the size of any liquids.
The prices may be a little more expensive than if you bought them at your local store but it is certainly more convenient. Buying your snacks at the airport also gives you something to do while you have the inevitable wait for your flight to start boarding.
Can you eat your snacks onboard?
I haven’t discovered an airline yet where you are not permitted to eat your own snacks during the flight. With airline food generally being so awful, unless you are traveling first or business class, then it is no wonder that passengers want to bring their own food and snack.
American Airlines states on their website “We’re limiting food and drink service on board based on flight length and destination. You’re welcome to bring snacks and soft drinks to enjoy during your flight.”
So good news, feel free to tuck into your own food and airplane snacks during the flight but be considerate of your fellow passengers who are sitting near you.
Do not eat any snacks with a particularly strong scent, such as very spicy stuff, fishy foods or snacks that are high in garlic, that others may not enjoy smelling as much as you enjoy eating.
Taking snacks containing nuts onboard
One thing to bear in mind, if you bring food or snacks on a flight that contains nuts, there might be someone on the aircraft with a serious nut allergy.
If that is the case the crew will probably make an announcement before you take off telling you that such a person is on board and asking you not to open any food item that contains nuts.
This has happened a number of times when I have been on a flight and typically that is pretty much the only times that I have actually had some snacks with me that contained nuts.
Can you bring snacks on international flights?
You can bring the same snacks on a plane if you are traveling on international flights as you can on domestic flights.
You will not have problems if you consume them all during the flight but if you have any left of the flight you will need to consider if they can actually be taken into the country you are traveling to.
Some countries are very strict customs rules on the foodstuff that they allow into their country. Australia for instance has very strict food import controls in place so you may find your snacks being confiscated by customs officials and you may receive a hefty fine too.
If in doubt empty your carry on of any snacks and other food you may still have and definitely do not take them off of the plane with you. Throw them in the garbage bag when the cabin crew comes around to collect it.
Can you pack snacks in your checked baggage?
The rules applying to checked bags are, with a few exceptions, much more lenient than those rules that apply to what you can take in hand luggage. Certainly, in the case of snacks you can pack the same in both carry on or checked bags and in addition, you can take those snack items that are deemed to be a liquid too.
Just make sure any liquid is in a leak-proof container so that the liquid does not ruin the contents of your suitcase.
Covid-19 food update
Due to the Covid19 situation, the TSA has updated its rules regarding taking not just snacks but any food through security in order to try and eliminate cross-contamination.
If you do not follow these rules they say you will have to repack your hand luggage and then rejoin the line at the back – so getting it right the first time will certainly make your passage through security quicker.
They state the following:
Separate food for X-ray screening. Passengers should place their carry-on food items into a clear plastic bag and place that bag into a bin. Food items often trigger an alarm during the screening process; separating the food from the carry-on luggage lessens the likelihood that a TSA officer will need to open the carry-on bag and remove the food items for a closer inspection. This requirement allows social distancing, reduces the TSA officer’s need to touch a person’s container of food and reduces potential for cross-contamination. TSA Precheck members do not need to remove items from their bags. See the full article ….TSA prepared for summer travelers with updated security procedures
One last thing
It is amazing what some people will actually consider taking with them through airport security to eat on a plane. This passenger is asking if he can bring his leftover Chinese food with him:
You should have no problems taking your snacks in any quantity with you in your hand luggage when traveling by air. Have a good and stress-free flight.