Is Your Thirst Worth It? The Hard Truth About Airplane Water Quality

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Discover what you need to know about airplane water quality.

Imagine this: You’re comfortably seated on your flight, the airplane is cruising smoothly, and the cabin crew comes around with refreshments. You ask for a cup of water, anticipating the cool, refreshing sip to combat the dry cabin air. But have you ever stopped to wonder about the quality of the water you’re drinking at 35,000 feet?

Truth be told, the quality of airplane water is a topic often brushed under the carpet. It’s not something most passengers think about, yet it’s an issue that could have significant implications for your health. If you’re someone who cares about what goes into your body, it’s high time to take a deep dive into the world of airplane water quality.


  • The quality of water on airplanes is a contentious issue, with many airlines scoring poorly on water quality tests.
  • The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates airplane water quality, but testing is only required once a year.
  • Drinking bottled water is a safer choice when flying.
  • Never drink water directly from the airplane bathroom.
  • Travelers with weak immune systems should be especially cautious about drinking airplane water.

Also check out: Airplane motion sickness remedies

Unmasking the Reality of Airplane Water Quality

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the water quality on airplanes is regulated by the Safe Drinking Water Act. This regulation requires airlines to test their onboard water systems for bacteria and other contaminants at least once a year. However, despite these regulations, the quality of water served on airplanes often leaves much to be desired.

A 2019 study by revealed that the average score for water quality on major airlines was only 2.4 out of 5, with 12 out of 23 airlines receiving a score of 2 or lower. This sobering statistic prompts the question – what’s in the water you’re drinking in the air?

Why Is Airplane Water Quality a Concern?

Charles Platkin, public health advocate and founder of, puts it succinctly, “Airplane water is not the same as tap water. It’s a completely different animal.” So, what makes airplane water quality so problematic?

Airplane water is stored in tanks that are not often cleaned, providing an ideal environment for bacteria and other contaminants to thrive. Moreover, the water is transported through hoses that are also used to fill lavatory systems, increasing the risk of cross-contamination.

While boiling water can kill most bacteria, it does not remove other contaminants like heavy metals. Therefore, even if you’re sipping on hot coffee or tea made with airplane water, there’s no guarantee it’s safe.

Safeguarding Your Health: What Can You Do?

Given the concerns surrounding airplane water quality, what can you do to ensure you’re not compromising your health when you fly?

  • Opt for bottled water: Bottled water is a safer choice when it comes to drinking water on airplanes. Airlines typically provide bottled water for passengers, so don’t hesitate to ask for it.
  • Avoid drinking hot beverages: Hot beverages like tea or coffee are often made with airplane tap water. Unless you can confirm that the water was bottled, it’s best to avoid them.
  • Never drink water from the bathroom tap: The water in airplane bathrooms is not potable and should never be consumed. It is intended solely for washing hands.
  • Consider your immune health: If you have a weakened immune system, due to age, illness or certain medications, you should be especially cautious. Your body might be more susceptible to potential bacteria or pathogens in the water.

Hydration Matters, Quality Matters More

Hydration is crucial, especially on long-haul flights. However, quality shouldn’t be compromised for quantity. As passengers, we should make informed choices and prioritize our health. Next time you’re offered a cup of water on a plane, remember that not all water is created equal.


Even though the airplane water quality issue might seem disconcerting, it shouldn’t dampen your love for travel. It’s about being informed and making the right choices. The joy of exploring new places and experiencing new cultures far outweighs the small inconvenience of skipping the tap water on your flight. Safe travels, and don’t forget to stay hydrated—the right way!


Is airplane tap water safe to drink?

While the water on airplanes is regulated by the EPA, studies have shown that the quality can vary greatly. It’s recommended to avoid drinking tap water on planes and opt for bottled water instead.

Can I get sick from drinking airplane water?

While it’s not common, there’s a chance you could get sick from drinking contaminated airplane water. Symptoms might include stomach upset, nausea, and diarrhea.

Is the water in airplane bathrooms safe to drink?

No, the water in airplane bathrooms is not potable and should never be consumed. It is intended solely for washing hands.

Is it safe to drink hot beverages like tea or coffee on a plane?

Hot beverages on planes are often made with tap water. Unless you can confirm that the water used was bottled, it’s best to avoid drinking hot beverages on a plane.

Are airlines required to test their water?

Yes, according to the Safe Drinking Water Act, airlines are required to test their onboard water systems for bacteria and other contaminants at least once a year.


  1. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
  3. Independent: Airline water study
  4. CDC: Traveler’s Health

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