For many air travelers, including my wife, enjoying a cup of coffee is a preferred way to pass the time while waiting for their flight. Given the popularity of this pastime, it's no surprise that there's an abundance of coffee shops available in airports, Starbucks being a prime example.
A question that's often asked, and one I've pondered myself, is whether we're allowed to bring Starbucks coffee onto the airplane. The reason being, there have been times when my wife hasn't finished drinking them, but we had to board the plane.
Yes, we could order coffee on the plane, but the quality sometimes falls short when compared to Starbucks. It also seems wasteful to toss out an unfinished, and not to mention pricey, Starbucks coffee.
To answer this question, I decided to dig into the matter, taking into account the airport's layout. The answer, as it turns out, depends on where you purchase your coffee. Starbucks stores at airports can be found in two areas: landside and airside.
The landside area of an airport is the publicly accessible space that stretches from the entrance to the check-in area. Anyone, including prospective passengers, people dropping off travelers, or airport wanderers, can access this area. Here, you'll find numerous shops and restaurants, including Starbucks.
Unfortunately, if you purchase your Starbucks coffee in the landside area, you won't be able to take it onto the plane. This is because you'll need to pass through security, where there are restrictions on the amount of liquids allowed in the aircraft cabin.
As passengers are prohibited from carrying more than 100 ml of liquid, your Starbucks coffee will need to be disposed of before passing through security.
The airside area of the airport is only accessible to passengers with a boarding pass and is commonly referred to as the transit area. This area spans from the immigration and/or security check to the boarding gate.
In the airside area, you'll often find duty-free shops, restaurants, and Starbucks stores. There are two scenarios for purchasing coffee in this area, you may or may not be allowed to bring it onto the plane, depending on the location of the Starbucks and the security checkpoint.
Some airports, like Changi Airport Terminals 1, 2, and 3, only require passengers to pass through immigration to enter the airside area, leaving the security check for later, right before entering the boarding gate's waiting room. In this situation, you won't be able to bring your Starbucks coffee onboard since it will not pass the security check.
Many airports, such as Changi Airport Terminal 4 and Soekarno-Hatta Terminal 3, have airside areas that begin after the security check. In these cases, there's no additional security check before boarding the plane. In this scenario, you can bring your Starbucks coffee on the plane, provided it's stored in a bottle or tumbler and placed inside your bag.
The reason for this is that if you buy your coffee in a regular cup, you won't be able to stow it away during takeoff since the tray table in front of you must be folded and closed during takeoff and landing. Additionally, airline staff may prohibit you from bringing your coffee on board if they see you carrying it in a cup.
In conclusion, you can bring Starbucks coffee onboard as long as the store is located in the airside area beyond security and the coffee is stored in a bottle or tumbler, not a regular cup.