I am going to take a flight for some "working holidays". I'm expected to carry some alcohol (95%) and formol in order to do some field work at my destination. I'd probably take 1L of alcohol and 0,5L of formol with me. The usual practice here is to not declare it but just hope that it will pass with the main luggage. It is a domestic flight in Chile. I have no option to obtain these substances at my destination.

Is the transport of these substances illegal (officially prohibited)?

What would be the worst case scenario if detected and disapproved of (it would be OK to leave the substances but I cannot loose the flight)?

Would it help to have a signed letter from my supervisor stating the purpose of the chemicals?

Does anyone have any experience transporting these substances?

  • It is most likely that the airline, and probably Chilean officials, would consider both Flammable Liquids, hence not permitted aboard the aircraft. Can you ship them ahead of time?
    – DTRT
    Dec 15, 2016 at 16:27
  • 1
    Last time I shipped a few liters of something that was mostly alcohol it had to go by surface and attracted a hazmat charge exceeding its value by a significant margin. Dec 15, 2016 at 16:30
  • One option would be if you didn't require the alcohol at 95% for your work would be to dilute it before you go. It would be heavier but it might be dilute enough to pass regulations. Dec 15, 2016 at 17:07
  • Tried calling FedEx or another such parcel carrier? Dec 16, 2016 at 2:18

2 Answers 2


95%/100% alcohol is officially considered a Hazardous Material, and should never be taken on an aircraft without at least obtaining permission from the airline (which would normally not be granted).

Exact regulations/fines will vary from country to country, but to use the US as an example if you were caught transporting this on a plane you could be liable for up to $500,000 in fines and 5 years in prison.

Please do not put your own safety or the safety of everyone else on the plane at risk by attempting to transport this. If it is not possible to purchase it at your destination, then consider shipping there in advance - correctly labelled so that it is transported via ground.

Formalin may also be considered a hazardous material depending on the concentration. In the US, concentrations of up to 10% Formaldehyde are allowed, which would be equivalent to roughly a 25% solution of Formalin. The best option here would be to check with the airline in advance as to what is allowed, as rules can vary not just from country to country, but also from airline to airline.

  • 5
    "If it is not possible to purchase it at your destination, then consider shipping there in advance - correctly labelled so that it is transported via ground." Actually, a cheaper option as it's an internal flight would be to forget flying and transport it by ground yourself. As a hazardous good it will attract surcharges probably worth more than the value of the alcohol. That said, Chile is such an inaccessible country in so many places that ground transportation often is easier said than done. Dec 15, 2016 at 17:14

Contact your airline, and be prepared to give them the security sheet about such substance and the proof that it is safe to transport (so that you have good and approved recipients).

But probably it is easier to buy at your destination (maybe you can call a pharmacy/chemicalshop in advance) or mail (check post regulations) it to your destination.

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