I am planning to take a trip to Atlanta, GA, USA from Vancouver, BC, Canada. When I come back to Canada, I am going to be transferring somewhere inside the USA. So my departure airport is in the USA, my connecting airport will also be in the USA, and my final destination will be Canada.

Do I have to buy my duty-free item (probably a bottle of alcohol) at the connecting airport (likely going to be Seattle or Phoenix), or can I buy it from Atlanta and just carry it with me the entire time?

Another question, probably the first question I should ask: is there a duty-free shop that sells alcohol at the Hartsfield Intl. Airport in Atlanta?

I have been to international airports where they didn't have duty-free shops.

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    You will have to buy at your connecting airport. You can't buy duty-free alcohol in Atlanta because your next stop is still in the USA, and for all they know you could skip the second flight. – Andrew Lazarus Sep 16 '16 at 22:06
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    This question has gotten some downvotes, and I don't quite understand why. Is there some reason for these downvotes? – Michael Hampton Sep 16 '16 at 22:27

Let's say your return flight is from Atlanta to Seattle, and Seattle to Vancouver.

That first flight is going to be a domestic flight. Thus, in Atlanta, you won't have access to a duty-free shop as you won't have gone in an "international zone" just yet.

Then, in Seattle, I'm guessing you're going to transfer from the domestic zone to the international zone, at which point you should be able to.

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    The US has no exit formalities. In a lot of US airports there aren't clearly distinct "domestic" and "international" zones, you can have a domestic flight leaving from the same hall one gate away from an international flight. What gets you access to a duty free shop is usually a boarding pass for an international flight leaving from that airport. At the airports I've been to the purchase is usually delivered to you on the jetway when you board. – Dennis Sep 17 '16 at 0:09
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    At Hartsfield-Jackson, you are able to access the duty free shop in Concourse E, but you're unable to purchase without presenting the int'l flight boarding pass. As the OP should already have the boarding pass for the connecting flight from either Phoenix or Seattle, while that might allow the purchase of alcohol, it wouldn't be delivered to the domestic departure (or would it?). – Giorgio Sep 17 '16 at 2:30
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    @Giorgio It won't allow it, unless the flight from Atlanta is to a foreign airport. – Jim MacKenzie Aug 9 '18 at 13:05

Duty-free sales are restricted to international travellers. Because your boarding pass in Atlanta will be for a domestic flight, even if you're passing by a DF shop (as international departures in American airports are usually not segregated), you won't be able to buy in Atlanta, even if you have another boarding pass for your next flight.

Were you allowed to buy some booze in Atlanta, you could offload it in Seattle for example, and give it to someone. So that's a no-no: you can only buy DF items when you're leaving the country, ie at your last departure point.

Also, I don't remember how it works in the USA, but here in Asia, you can't buy liquids in DF stores if you have a transfer (even international), as they would get caught during security checks at the transfer airport. One would think that TSA would object too, especially considering the non-segregated terminals.

  • What if one asks an international passenger to buy it for them? – JonathanReez Aug 9 '18 at 14:59
  • Illegal but it's been done, sure. But if you have to pass through security again, you'll lose the bottle. – user67108 Aug 9 '18 at 15:01
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    @dda in my experience duty free bottles can pass through security if they're still in an original sealed bag from the duty free shop. I did this last year in Istanbul. I suppose there are probably countries that haven't implemented such a rule, so careful checking beforehand is in order. – phoog Aug 9 '18 at 15:45
  • @phoog indeed. My experience is limited to Asia, where it's generally not allowed, so caveat emptor for sure. – user67108 Aug 9 '18 at 15:46
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    TSA apparently has such a rule that applies only to duty-free liquids bought outside the US, subject to a couple of additional conditions: tsa.gov/blog/2017/05/25/tsas-2017-summer-travel-tips. So your comment to @JonathanReez is correct in this case. – phoog Aug 9 '18 at 15:49

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