The tired cliche about air travel is that the food isn’t very good (if you even get a meal these days). But we have to hand it to the big airlines: their coffee tastes pretty bad too!
You may have wondered why everything is just so unappetizing 40,000 feet in the air. Is the cabin pressure affecting your tastebuds? Yes, kind of. But could it also be chalked up to how those box lunches prepared?
One explanation involves a pretty gross study of the water your cabin crew serves, and it will make you think twice before ordering a coffee on your next flight.
A number of studies have found mold and harmful bacteria in the systems used to refill water containers on airplanes, including bugs that can make you feel ill, or even cause serious conditions like septicemia.
And - we hate to break it to you - that same water is used to prepare your meals, and served straight to you in any coffee or tea your order.
Basically, the dirty water onboard just about every commercial jetliner is a known problem. So why do we still put up with it?
Any water used on a plane to prepare food (or served in hot drinks) has been boiled, neutralizing most of the germs that are harmful to humans and making it safe for consumption (as far as the Centers for Disease Control are concerned).
That’s why if you want cold water on a flight, you’re probably better off buying a plastic bottle than drinking from the tap.
As former flight attendant Abbie Unger told HuffPost:
"It is true that the potable water tanks are not cleaned. But they are only filled with potable (drinkable) water, so it's not like there is old coffee in a big container somewhere. The water doesn't make for an excellent cup of coffee, but it's not unsafe."
"I won’t drink the tap water," an anonymous airline employee told Time. "I just don’t always trust the cleanliness of the aircraft and the testing of it."
She added that most planes are "only truly clean once a year."
"I’ve been on planes that are constantly running. It’s almost like a subway in New York. We know things are dirty in the system and it takes a little while to clean it out."
Even if you’re not a coffee or tea drinker, there are other ways you could be exposed to nasty germs from airplane water. Cold drinks, like soda or juice, usually come with ice cubes and - you guessed it - that ice is made from the same dirty water.