Usually people on international flights hear, Now we are in blah-blah airspace and so alcohol is permitted.
How do laws like these exist and how is the command or authority over airspace administered or exercised?

  • 1
    An interesting question, but pretty much answered by wikipedia: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Airspace
    – user1530
    Commented Jun 4, 2013 at 2:57
  • I was hoping to get a defined answer, I looked at the Wiki Page. But it doesn't really satisfy.
    – Chandough
    Commented Jun 4, 2013 at 3:15

1 Answer 1


The right of a country to administer the airspace over its territory is enshrined in international law.

Under the Convention on International Civil Aviation (the Chicago Convention), each State has complete and exclusive sovereignty over the airspace above its territory.

This means that when you are flying over a country, it is as if you were in that country, from a legal point of view. If the country prohibits the serving of alcohol, then an aircraft is breaking the law if it serves alcohol while in that country's airspace.

The exercise of that authority can take many forms. In the alcohol serving example, the airline or the captain might be prosecuted in criminal courts. Aircraft have been impounded once they land. Offenders who, for example, cause a disturbance on a flight can be prosecuted once they land. Aircraft that appear to be breaking the law can be intercepted in flight, and in extremely rare cases military aircraft can and have shot down civilian aircraft.

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