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
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