Air travellers beware: Tap water on planes can be unsafe to drink, warns travel expert

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    3rd July 2023 – (New York) Anton Radchenko, a travel expert and founder of AirAdvisor, has issued a warning to those planning to travel by plane: avoid drinking tap water while on board. According to Radchenko, in-flight tap water systems are rarely cleaned, which means that passengers who ask for tap water, hot chocolate or tea are potentially drinking from dirty pipes.

    While planes do carry drinking water, it can be sourced from any pickup point on the plane’s route and be stored for long periods, which inevitably reduces the water quality and makes it difficult to determine where the water has come from. Airlines are required to adhere to stringent regulations regarding water quality and conduct regular water tests. However, serious contamination can still occur despite these regulations.

    Drinking contaminated water on a plane can cause illness, particularly for those with underlying health conditions or a weakened immune system. Radchenko advises passengers to bring bottled water instead, as flying increases the risk of dehydration. He warns that drinking poor quality water can be worse than not drinking enough and that alcohol is not a good substitution as it can dehydrate passengers and harm their health.

    Radchenko’s warning serves as a reminder to air travelers to remain vigilant about their health and safety while on board. It highlights the importance of being prepared and taking precautions, such as bringing bottled water, to ensure a safe and enjoyable air travel experience.

    Whitney, a flight attendant working for a large US airline, told the Huffington Post that most flight attendants do not drink the tap water on board, including tea and coffee made with tap water. “It all depends on how frequently the water supply lines are cleaned,” she said, adding that while this may not be an issue in the US, other countries may lack similar cleaning regulations. In addition, the ice cubes added to drinks can also be made from the same water source.

    A survey conducted in 2019 ranked the water quality of major and regional US airlines, with Alaska Airlines and Allegiant Air providing the highest-quality water, while JetBlue and Spirit Airlines ranked the lowest.

    To be on the safe side, the report suggests that passengers should purchase bottled water, but substituting water with alcohol is not the best option. Whitney says that alcohol can have negative effects on the body during high-altitude flights. Clare Morrison, a medical expert from emergency medical service company MedExpress, explains that the cabin’s lower air pressure during flights makes it harder for the body to absorb oxygen. Drinking the same amount of alcohol in the air may be more intoxicating due to the lower oxygen levels in the blood.

    As for food that is not recommended to be consumed on planes, an anonymous Delta flight attendant suggests that passengers who have a high demand for steak don’t order it, as the large capacity of the plane’s oven means that steaks and fish are often overcooked.

    She also recommends avoiding cheese platters as dairy products have a long shelf life, which can mean they are not the freshest.

    In addition, nutritionist Vanessa Rissetto points out that consuming processed or high-sodium foods such as pasta, thick soups, and Indian cuisine on planes can lead to dehydration-related headaches, constipation, or fatigue. She suggests that passengers may want to try using electrolyte tablets or coconut water to replenish fluids and choose natural foods or lean protein as food options.

    During the summer travel season, passengers should take note of these recommendations to ensure the safety of their food and drink during flights. Flight attendants and experts’ advice can help passengers choose healthier and safer food and drink options to ensure a comfortable and healthy journey.