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I had a flight from Toronto, Canada (YYZ) to Dubai, United Arab Emirates (DXB) to Ahmedabad, India (AMD).

In YYZ, I checked in two bags (which I’d get in AMD), and had one carry on.

After passing security, I bought some a 1-liter bottle of alcohol in the duty-free and put in my carry on.

When I arrived at DXB, there was a hotel booked for me since it was a lengthy layover. I left for the hotel.

When I checked back in (with the alcohol in my carry on), DXB refused it cause it was over the 100-ml limit, even though it was bought at a duty-free and they could see this because of the label.

They wouldn’t let it pass. They said it had to be in checked luggage, which obviously was already en route to AMD.

Who was wrong in this scenario? If it was me, what could I have done to fix this? I bought the duty-free alcohol after check-in, and thus my checked bags were already gone, and I could only carry it.

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    Duty-free has NOTHING to do with security. It has to do with import/export taxes. Duty-free doesn't mean you can freely bring it past security, which is the actual issue. You cannot bring in liquids > 100ml through security, regardless of where it came from. Security also has NOTHING to do with import/export tax. That's handled typically at the red/green channels you see when leaving the airport, which is WAY past security.
    – Nelson
    Jan 16 at 1:52
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    100 ml limit is a legitimate security concern. I could, ... hmmmm ... stop things flying, with only 100 ml of chosen stuff, so even 100 ml is high. || When leaving China I have seen people go through security, buy sealed drinks in the post security area and then have them confiscated, unopened by an Australian security team operating AT the gate complete with a portable X-Ray system. I was surprised both that they were allowed to do this by Chinese authorities AND that they felt the need to. They may have been addressing a specific threat. I arrived alive, so, can't complain :-) . Jan 16 at 6:02
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    Depending on what exactly you mean by "alcohol", you may also want to consider that it may be flammable...
    – user541686
    Jan 16 at 7:27
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    I'm surprised the Duty Free shop didn't warn of this. They always ask me if on my final leg, to avoid exactly this scenario. Jan 16 at 12:03
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    YYZ - Toronto Canada, DXB - Dubai United Arab Emirates, AMD - Ahmedabad India Jan 17 at 2:12

2 Answers 2

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Once you left the airport, you are generally no longer able to carry your duty free alcohol back through security.

There are situations where you may be allowed transport such liquids through security, but these require the alcohol to be contained in a specific type of bag (known as "Security Tamper‑Evident Bags"), and these rules generally only apply when going through security at a transit point - not when you have left and are re-entering the airport.

In the situation you've mentioned, the only viable option would have been to check an additional bag at Dubai. This would have required you properly secure the alcohol into some form of bag that would have been suitable for checking, and would have potentially cost you an additional baggage fee.

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    Or to have not left the airport but waited beyond security for the duration of the layover.
    – IronSean
    Jan 15 at 15:02
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    @IronSean There are security checks when transferring in Dubai too. The bottle would have been intercepted there.
    – dda
    Jan 18 at 14:06
  • @dda Dubai allows the use of Security Tamper‑Evident Bags for transit security, so presuming the alcohol was in one of those (it's not clear if it was or not) it would have been allowed through transit security.
    – Doc
    Jan 18 at 17:15
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You were in the wrong. There are two main issues here.

  1. Buying alcohol (or other liquids like perfume) on a multi-leg trip is dicey, as even if you stay airside, security at transfer will (probably) refuse it. I know that's the case in most (if not all) airports in Asia. The rule of thumb is to buy during the last layover, in your case Dubai. Within Asia, DF store employees are trained to ask: where you're headed to (which they can see anyway since they ask for your boarding pass), whether you have a connection, and where, etc. Knowing the operators there a little, I believe that, had you bought your booze in Dubai, the staff would have asked you these questions too.

  2. Once you leave the secure area, and enter the country, this is not duty-free anymore. This is just a bottle of alcohol. Provenance unknown. If you had brought in a bottle of whiskey from home to YYZ, what would have been the reaction of the security staff? Exactly! Same thing. The fact that it's in a duty-free bag doesn't mean anything. Liquids above 100 ml are forbidden. Period.

So you could have checked in that bottle: find a box, fill it with styrofoam chips or bubble wrap, seal it, and check it in: the airline would have worked with that. I did it once. It was my only check-in luggage, and the post office at the airport had everything needed.

But expecting security to let a liter-bottle pass trough? Nope. Also, let's keep in mind that Dubai is a Muslim city - quite benevolent, but still their attitude towards booze is no picnic. So on top of the more than 100 ml liquid issue, the fact that it was booze is not going to buy you any brownie points.

For what is worth, I work in the DF business, selling alcohol in Asia.

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    @gdrt Pretty well the whole TSA is security theater.
    – Peter M
    Jan 15 at 15:41
  • @JonathanReez I'll be honest that 10% sounds extremely optimistic. I've been stopped at security for things that looked vaguely similar to jam or yogurt. In my experience, if there is something that looks vaguely suspicious, they will inspect manually to make sure. I'd say maybe if you go in a very busy time, where the queue at security is like 45min-1hr+, and the scan looks confused enough, then maybe you can get away with it, but even then i wouldn't go higher than like 2-3% odds.
    – bracco23
    Jan 15 at 16:51
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    Security Tamper‑Evident Bags are designed to overcome point 2 above, and are allowed for re-entry to the secure area at some airports after going landside (eg, the US allows this) - however even then I would not expect success after an extended layover like has occurred here.
    – Doc
    Jan 15 at 17:43
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    @bracco23 Another part of the problem is that "vaguely suspicious" is very subjective and totally depends on the actual agent. I've had things go through at one US domestic airport with no problem, then at the next US domestic airport I've been chewed out for not following procedure.
    – Peter M
    Jan 16 at 0:16
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    @PeterM I doubt the TSA is operating airport security in Dubai
    – Chuu
    Jan 16 at 20:22

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