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If you've ever tasted airplane water and thought the flavor was a bit off, you likely blamed the difference on the high altitude.

But a new study from Hunter College's New York City Food Policy Center confirms our worst fears:

airplane water really is dirtier than regular water.


The study compares the water found in the galley of 11 major and 12 regional airlines, looking at "criteria like fleet size, the presence of E. coli and coliform in water samples collected between 2012 and 2019, and violations of the Environmental Protection Agency's Aircraft Drinking Water Rule (ADWR) recorded during that same period," according to Huffpost.

In the study's ranking of major airlines, a "Water Health Score" of 3 or higher represents "relatively safe, clean water."

As rankings get lower then that is when you should start to worry.

Here are the study's rankings with their respective scores:

  • Alaska Airlines: 3.3
  • Allegiant Air: 3.3
  • Hawaiian Airlines: 3.1
  • Frontier Airlines: 2.6
  • Southwest Airlines: 2.4
  • Delta Air Lines: 1.6
  • American Airlines: 1.5
  • United Airlines: 1.2
  • JetBlue: 1
  • Spirit Airlines: 1


Airline regulations require that airlines flush and test their water for bacteria such as E. Coli every 24 hours, but many believe the rules are too lax. Charles Platkin, executive director of The Food Policy Center, commented:

"Why not immediately? Pun intended, this just feels like a watered down version of what should be a regulation for airlines."

Recorded violations of regulations have decreased over the past 10 years, but activists believe this is due to "lack of enforcement by the EPA" rather than a general improvement of water quality.

Platkin says the lack of quality in airline water could have a real effect on passengers.

"We need to make sure violations have penalties and costs that make airlines want to comply. We should tighten up the rules and add more tests to determine aircraft water quality. It's not just an ick-factor ― there are public health concerns."

This study is the latest of many to confirm people should not drink the galley water on an airplane.


Though the drinking water served by flight attendants is poured from a bottle (and therefore safe), galley water is often used to make tea and coffee, so those drinks as best avoided. Also, washing your hands in the bathroom sink is something Platkin wouldn't advise.

"I also don't wash my hands in the lavatory anymore. I make sure to have sanitizer. If you wash your hands in what could potentially be unsafe water, it sort of negates the whole process of actually washing your hands. You could be spreading E. coli all over... Sure, it's not likely, but why should you take any chance?"

Personal water filtration has come a long way. The LifeStraw Personal Water Filter is available here.

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