Here’s a new item for your travel plans:
Before taking off on an airline, you should do some research and find out how they rank when it comes to both bottled water and the water on taps in the bathrooms. There is no doubt that if you fly, you must consume a great deal of water.
The humidity on an aircraft is between 10 to 20% making the environment drier than the Sahara Desert! You can become dehydrated very quickly but you should know where the comes from before consuming it. Studies have shown that some water on board an aircraft is better for you than others.
The tap water you find in aircraft lavs (bathrooms) is really very bad for you. The water used comes in large water tanks that are used in lavs and in the galleys to make coffee and tea. In the bathrooms, you would be wiser to use your own sanitary wipes to clean your hands instead of the stuff in the taps.
In order for water to be acceptable for consumption, the airline should score 3.0 or higher.
Studies have shown that the quality of water on an aircraft can vary from one airline to another. In some cases, the water offered on some airlines can actually make you very sick.
In 2019, according to a study, it was noted that serving unhealthy water is a federal violation in the Aircraft Drinking Water Rule (ADWR) which went into effect in 2011 requiring airlines to provide passengers and flight crews with safe drinking water.
Each airline was given a Water Health Score with 5 being the highest and 0 being the lowest. The score is based on 10 criteria water sample report including the size of the fleet, ADWR violations, positive E Coli and coliform (which is a bacteria).
According to Charles Platkin, PhD., JD, MPH, and executive director of the Hunter College NYC Food Policy Center, the best airlines for the cleanest water are Alaska Airlines and Allegiant Air while Hawaiian Airlines came in second place as the only other airline to score over 3.0.
The absolute worst airlines are JetBlue and Spirit Airlines. With the exception of Piedmont Airlines, regional airlines need to clean up their act and provide safe drinking water onboard their aircraft.
The worst part of this study, the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) which is a federal agency is responsible for ensuring that drinking water on aircraft is safe. Unfortunately, very rarely are any of the airlines cited for violations of the ADWR.
As mentioned above, all regional airlines with the exception of Piedmont have very poor Water Health Scores and have many ADWR violations. Airlines under United including United Express, Delta Connection, and American Eagle have the lowest score of 0.44 while ExpressJet comes in at 0.56.
The study issued a “Shame On You” Award that was given directly to the EPA and almost all major airlines for their poor responses and lack of cooperation answering important questions.
A final piece of advice – do not drink water on airlines unless it’s in bottles that are sealed and stay away from coffee and tea. Never wash your hands in the bathrooms, have your own sanitary wipes.