Next time you fly, skip the airplane coffee and tea.
You've been cruising above the clouds for an hour now, the podcast you've been engrossed in is coming to an end, and just before you start the next one the flight attendant asks you if you would like anything to drink. What should you order? Not coffee or tea. Why? Airplane coffee and tea are made with the aircraft's stored water, and an EPA study found that one in every eight aircraft fail to meet the agency's water safety standards.
Business Insider spoke with a flight attendant who said, "Flight attendants will not drink hot water on the plane. They will not drink plain coffee, and they will not drink plain tea."
So, how bad is it? One investigation found Salmonella and insect eggs, others found that 15 percent of tested aircraft water contained potentially harmful bacteria. Experts say that contamination is primarily due to the amount of steps involved when transporting water to the aircraft and filling its tanks. Airlines could also do a better job of flushing and cleaning the holding tanks.
Not surprisingly, this is nothing new. The FDA has warned the industry at least six times in the past 20 years, and in 2011 the EPA implemented the Aircraft Drinking Water Rule
The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA however doesn't think the regulation is thorough enough:
"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."
And as you can imagine airlines are reiterating their commitment to safety. Airlines for America states:
"The safety of our passengers and crew remain the airlines’ primary focus, including the provision of clean drinking water. To meet customer preferences, airlines typically provide bottled water while also ensuring water available through the aircraft onboard water systems is safe. Airlines work closely with the Environmental Protection Agency to ensure that water received from municipalities for onboard systems is safe and to maintain that safety by following rigorous sampling and management requirements once received. "
As for me? Even though airplane coffee and tea are heated, they're still made with airplane tap and it's not guaranteed that they'll be heated enough to kill harmful bacteria, so I think I'll stick to booze for an extra sanitary way to quench my thirst.