Water served on only three out of 11 major airlines in the United States were found to safe enough to be consumed.
Although keeping oneself hydrated is considered healthy, you might want to make an exception while you're on an airplane. A recent study states that the majority of America's most popular airlines don't provide their passengers with safe drinking water and that it may pose a threat to one's health. According to a report by PEOPLE, DietDetective.com and the Hunter College NYC Food Policy Center joined forces to investigate the purity of the water served on 11 major airlines and 12 regional airlines. After scoring the quality of water, on a scale of 0-5, based on 10 criteria including - the presence of E. coli and coliform bacteria in the water, their track record with compliance to Aircraft Drinking Water Rule (ADWR), and the airline's fleet size, the results were published in the 2019 Airline Water Study.
In order to be considered safe for consumption, the airlines needed to achieve a 'Water Health Score' of 3 or above. Shockingly, just three of the 11 major airlines made the mark, and only one made it out of the 12 regional airlines. In a press release, Charles Platkin, Ph.D., JD, MPH, and the executive director of the Hunter College NYC Food Policy Center, revealed, "Alaska Airlines and Allegiant win the top spot with the safest water in the sky with a score of 3.3, and Hawaiian Airlines finishes No. 2, scoring 3.1"
Water on Most U.S. Airlines Is Unsafe, Says Study: Avoid Coffee, Tea and Even Washing Your Hands https://t.co/x0AxAgHR9o— People (@people) 4 November 2019
Spirit and JetBlue were both tied at the score of 1 out of 5, taking them to the bottom of the table. On the other hand, Piedmont Airlines was crowned as the highest scorer among regional carriers after it received a score of 4.33, surpassing the top-scoring major U.S. airlines. The lowest score in the regional category was 0.44, and it was given to Republic Airways, which operates Delta Connection, United Express, and American Eagle flights.
Dr. Charles Platkin, who studied food served on airlines shifted his interest from the solids to the liquids after examining a dubious sample of coffee brewed onboard. "It was kind of natural for me to look at this," Platkin told Healthline. "When I peeled back the first layer, it didn’t smell so good." After digging into this matter further he discovered that every airline had a different set of regulations pertaining to their water supplies which in his view were not easy to follow. "It’s a — pun intended — watered-down version of those regulations," said Platkin. "I found the whole thing confusing." Eventually, he decided to stop consuming or using water on aircraft especially after learning that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rarely fines these airlines for having providing unsafe water onboard. "As a traveler myself, I wouldn’t touch the water," he added.
The study further warns passengers that low scoring airlines may even contain E. coli in their water which could be ingested by everyone on board, including the staff. And so to protect oneself from consuming potential pathogens, DietDetective.com and the Hunter College NYC Food Policy Center advised people to not consume this water (in any way) unless served in a sealed bottle. They even went to the extent of suggesting travelers not to wash their hands using the water present in the airplane's washroom and instead recommended people to carry their personal hand sanitizers for that purpose.
The study suggests that the presence of these harmful pathogens could be due to the varying sources from which these planes receive their water. "An aircraft flies to numerous destinations and may pump drinking water into its tanks from various sources at domestic and international locations," reads the study. "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."