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It’s not very difficult to figure out that you shouldn’t drink tap water on a plane. The plane’s holding tanks aren’t that clean, and water usually must pass through multiple channels to get onto a plane in the first place. Each time it’s transferred, it’s open to contamination.

Most airlines serve bottled water, but those run out—and I’ve seen flight attendants on multiple flights (U.S. and international) refill those large plastic bottles with tap water to give the appearance of bottled water. I can taste the difference right away and will usually ask if it’s tap water. I’ve been assured before that what I was drinking was not tap water and stopped drinking anyway. I knew they were lying.

Well, according to this Business Insider (BI) article, flight attendants won’t even drink coffee or tea on planes because the tap water is so dirty and the drinks aren’t hot enough to kill any harmful bacteria. Here’s one of the statements BI received about airplane water safety from The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA:

“Water onboard is regulated under the Environmental Protection Agency to ensure safe drinking water on the aircraft. The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA pushed for this regulation over 15 years ago. The regulation gives broad discretion to airlines on how often they must test the water and flush the tanks. AFA does not believe this regulation goes far enough or is sufficiently enforced.”

Fortunately I don’t drink coffee or tea, but I know many people that do, including my wife. However, I have a feeling she won’t be having her spot of tea on our next flight. Will you?

Related: How Much Water You Should Drink on a Plane



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8 Comments On "Why You Shouldn't Drink Coffee, Tea or Tap Water on a Plane"
  1. Peter Finds|

    I never considered how gross the water tanks on a plane would be. Weirdly I assumed all of it was fresh. Ew!

  2. lee|

    it i difficult to bring enough water aboard for a long flight even when you refill at the airport (after security)
    but the biggest insult was British air (among others )charging for a bottle of water!
    and in Toronto airport (changing planes) the water cost over 3.00 Canadian!
    however air Canada did offer juice, water etc……………every flight supports why I take ships whenever possible.

  3. Emma|

    OMG that is disgusting. Never again will I drink my beloved tea on a plane.

  4. Emma|

    Yuck. That is disgusting… Never again will I drink my beloved tea on a plane.
    I guess alcohol it is then. Much safer.

  5. Rick Butzberger|

    I flew as crew or passenger for 18,000 hours over a 30 year career. I drank coffee and/or tea every day, and lived to tell about it. My only complaint was the occasional time when maintenance didn’t do a thorough job of rinsing out the chlorine they used to disinfect the tank.

    1. Johnny Jet
      Johnny Jet|

      Good to know!

  6. Laura Thompson|

    Hi Johnny I listen to you every week on Leo’s show
    I am a guide dog user and one of the first things most of the guide dog schools tell you about traveling with a guide dog is to never give the dog tap water anywhere but home it will upset the dog’s stomach just from the difference in the chemicals and the same is true of humans

    1. Johnny Jet
      Johnny Jet|

      Interesting! Thanks for sharing.

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