Study: Water, Coffee & Tea On Planes Is So Dirty It Could Make You Sick

By Dave Basner

November 5, 2019

Most flights see the attendants walking down the aisle, offering passengers water, coffee or tea, but according to a new study, it's in your best interest to say no to them. Hunter College's NYC Food Policy Center teamed up with to conduct what they call the 2019 Airline Water Study. They looked at 11 major airlines and 12 regional airlines to see how safe their drinking water is. They examined airline fleet size, the presence of coliform bacteria or E. coli in the water, and the amount of times the airline has violated the Aircraft Drinking Water Rule, a 2011 act that the government put in place to require airlines to provide safe drinking water. Based on those factors, the researchers assigned a score of 0 to 5, with 5 being the best and 3 or higher meaning the water is safe to drink. They found that only three of the 11 major airlines and one of the 12 regional ones scored a 3 or higher - meaning that the water on all the rest of the airlines is not safe.

Passenger drinking water in airplane during flight.

They concluded that Alaska Airlines and Allegiant have the safest water of the majors, with Hawaiian in second place. Spirit and JetBlue had the lowest scores. Regionally, Piedmont was the safest and Republic Airways the least safe.

So what should you do? The researchers suggest never drinking water on a plane unless it is from a sealed bottle. They also advise you not drink coffee or tea onboard. They even go so far as to say that you should bring your own hand sanitizer instead of using the water in the bathroom sink to wash your hands. Otherwise, you risk contracting a disease-causing bacteria that could make you sick.

As for how this happens, the study explained, "An aircraft flies to numerous destinations and may pump drinking water into its tanks from various sources at domestic and international locations. The water quality onboard also depends on the safety of the equipment used to transfer the water, such as water cabinets, trucks, carts and hoses."

Check out the full study here.

Photo: Getty Images

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