Being on an airplane doesn’t leave you with many options for what’s available to eat or drink. Still, staying hydrated while you’re flying is essential, with health experts recommending drinking at least eight ounces of water per hour while in midair. But when the beverage cart comes around on your next flight, there are a few drinks you should remember never to order. Read on to see what beverages are a bad idea while flying.
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For some, the idea of a midflight coffee or spot of tea can seem like an easy way to feel alert while doing work onboard and feeling energized when you land. But, in reality, your pick-me-up could be one of the dirtiest beverages in the skies.
According to a viral TikTok posted by flight attendant Kat Kamalani, the coffee and tea on flights is made using the airplane’s water onboard water supply, which most in the business consider to be downright vile. Even worse? The coffee machines and pots themselves only ever get cleaned when they’re broken. “Rule number one, never consume any liquid that is not in a can or a bottle,” Kamalani warns, explaining that “those water tanks are never cleaned, and they are disgusting.”
Similar to the coffee and tea on board, any water that’s being served straight from the faucet could be laden with bacteria. In a 2019 study conducted by the Hunter College NYC Food Policy Center at the City University of New York, researchers analyzed the drinking water aboard planes on 11 major American airlines and 12 regional airlines. Each was ranked on a scale of five being the best and zero being the worst, with scores above three indicating a relatively clean water supply. However, results found that seven major airlines scored under a three.
“Water onboard is regulated under the Environmental Protection Agency to ensure safe drinking water on the aircraft,” the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA) said in a statement responding to the study. “The [AFA] pushed for this regulation over 15 years ago. The regulation gives broad discretion to airlines on how often they must test the water and flush the tanks. AFA does not believe this regulation goes far enough or is sufficiently enforced.”
But this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t stay hydrated on a flight. If you’re reaching for water during beverage service, make sure it’s being served from a sealed bottle or can before drinking it. Otherwise, plan on bringing your own. “I aim to stick to bottled water that I buy in the airport, or I’ll fill a reusable water bottle after going through security with the filtered water stations they have in most major airports now,” Emily Cuneo, founder of Emily Embarks, tells Best Life.
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A Bloody Mary is a popular drink on board flights, if only because it offers a convenient loophole to ordering liquor at an earlier hour in the day. But some experts point out that it might not be a great choice to sip on one while at a high altitude.
“A lot of people like to drink Bloody Marys to kick off a vacation. It’s actually the worst drink you can order,” says Elizabeth Squillante, President of Springboard Travel. “The high salt content, combined with the lack of movement, makes for some very puffy legs at the end of a flight. Bring your own bottled water instead and flush out any extra salt you may have to begin with.”
Being high in the sky as you jet off towards vacation can make it easy to feel like it’s time to unwind and order a stiff drink. But as recent reports have shown, overindulging while on a flight can lead to some severe consequences—or at the very least, leave you feeling dehydrated and hungover when you arrive at your destination. For that reason, you should try to drink even less than you would normally.
“Keep in mind that one drink in the air is the same as two drinks on the ground,” Rana Good, a travel expert with Naïra NYC, tells Best Life. “A lot of people get extremely drunk on airplanes not knowing this phenomenon and make the flight very uncomfortable for themselves and others. Stick to one or two cocktails max.”
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Besides your ears popping, the high altitudes of a flight also affect how you taste certain things. According to the World Health Organization, a commercial airline cabin simulates the experience of being atop a 5,000 to 6,000-foot mountain, dulling saltiness and sweetness on the palate. This can make it easy to overdo it on sweet sodas and juices during your flight without even realizing it, Travel + Leisure reports.
“I try to avoid anything high in sugar [such as] soda and juice,” says Cuneo. “Especially if you are on a long-haul flight, increasing your consumption of sugar can lead to headaches, nausea, and in turn, a more difficult time adjusting to the local time difference once you land in your destination.”
If you’re looking for something more exciting than water, Cuneo offers a relatively easy option. “For a little flavor, consider adding a vitamin C packet to your water! This will add flavor, some slight carbonation, and will help you stay healthy while traveling.”
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