When you’re tempted to drink the water…

Just how potable is the tap water on US commercial aircraft? That’s the question this frequent traveller is asking after US Airways announced it will charge $2 for bottled water in its domestic coach cabins beginning 1 August. The answer, it seems, is “not so much”.


A noted Wall Street Journal investigation in 2002 found “a long list of microscopic life you

Water droplet.jpg

don’t want to drink, from Salmonella and Staphylococcus to tiny insect eggs” in water samples from aircraft. A few years later a round of testing by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) showed that 17.2% of 169 randomly selected passenger aircraft carried water contaminated with total coliform bacteria. And now reports say the EPA is proposing rules designed to better test and limit the level of bacteria in the water. 


Should we even bother washing our hands, let alone brush our teeth on a long flight? Who wants to even have a thimble-full of this stuff in their mouth?


But I digress. Apparently US Airways is ready to just say “no” to even the thirstiest of its domestic travellers. The airline will allow exceptions for extended taxi delays or when a passenger needs to take medication. Off-duty employees travelling “on business or pleasure will have the option to purchase a beverage or not”, says the carrier in its latest employee newsletter. On-duty crewmembers, it says, “may consume complimentary non-alcoholic beverages while on board”.


It will be interesting to see just how well flight attendants adhere to the new rules. Will water be denied to a mother who needs it to mix baby formula for a bottle, for instance? What if someone is simply crying out for thirst, after perhaps forgetting to purchase water just before a flight?  


Additionally, US Airways will only accept cash for beverage sales. “Cash will be the only method of payment beginning Aug. 1. We are working to launch in-flight credit card readers allowing customers to pay for all in-flight items with a credit card, so stay tuned for more on this in the near future,” says the carrier.


The message is clear. Either buy a bottle of water or hit the ATM machine before your US Airways flight. And may I suggest that you don’t allow yourself to be tempted by the siren song of a free trickle from the tap in any US carrier’s loo.


Photo by Fir0002 at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Water_droplet_blue_bg05.jpg 


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10 Responses to When you’re tempted to drink the water…

  1. Nicolas June 16, 2008 at 4:09 pm #

    Even if we are talking about relatively cheap tickets, honestly, it makes me mad to think something as essential as water is not included in the cost of flying.

    What it says about values and respect for human kind is terrible.

  2. Mary Kirby June 16, 2008 at 8:19 pm #

    I think the knowledge that a free glass of water isn’t available on a flight will be rather anxiety-inducing for some folks. And who carries cash anymore?

  3. ikkeman June 17, 2008 at 7:54 am #

    Oh god… I hope we’ve hit rock bottom, Or are we going to have to pay for restroom visits to? Do we need to pay for the service at the gate, or make sure we tip the cargo handler so he’ll put the right bag in the right plane unopened.

    How much difference is this going to make in the operating costs – and how much is it goint to increase the hidden costs of travelling by plane.

  4. Mary Kirby June 17, 2008 at 12:58 pm #

    US Airways says the entire package of new revenue-generating measures will add up to as much as $400 million per year. This is a drop in the bucket when you consider that the carrier’s fuel bill will be nearly $2 billion more in 2008 than in 2007. But denying fresh water to passengers seems like a rock bottom measure indeed.

  5. Peter Findlay June 17, 2008 at 10:08 pm #

    Why not fix the problem and make the potable water Potable?

    It’s been many years since I worked on the flight line but we used to chlorinate then flush the tanks and lines and change the filters regularly. Plus the water supply was treated and filtered at the filling rig. At least at QF and in Aus.

    In those days airlines had their own staff around the world, different these days I guess.

  6. MF Israel June 18, 2008 at 12:16 am #

    Water should be available at no charge to passenger in flight and should be included in the airfare.

    Only drink water from a sealed bottle in the aircraft.

    Trust me.

  7. Mary Kirby June 18, 2008 at 8:07 am #

    As yes, you make a brilliant point MF Israel. Who is to say that the bottles won’t be re-filled from ominous sources.

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