Think Again Before Ordering These Common Beverages On A Flight

You may consider yourself a master traveler. You know all the flight attendants' top packing tips to keep your bag organizedthe best seat on the plane to pick if you need to get some work done, and the barista at the airport coffee shop knows your name. But are you unwittingly ordering the wrong drink on your flight? 


While there's no shame in ordering your drink of choice when you fly, you might want to consider skipping a few options the next time the flight attendant rolls the cart down the aisle and asks you what you want. Some, like coffee or water, come with potential health and safety concerns; others, like Diet Coke or a Bloody Mary, may make your time onboard more uncomfortable. Considering flying can sometimes be a literal pain in the neck with small seats and red-eye schedules, you want to set yourself up for success however you can.

Tap water served on planes may contain harmful bacteria

You might want to skip tap water for the same reason you should never order ice in your drink on a plane. A 2019 study showed that the water tanks onboard many flights aren't cleaned often or thoroughly enough to completely prevent the growth of harmful bacteria, including E.coli, which can cause food poisoning. The current U.S. airline regulations require the water tanks that provide drinking water to passengers to be cleaned four times a year. They can be cleaned less frequently if tested for bacteria more often. But if the water is found not to meet the seemingly basic requirements of not having things that can make you sick, there may not be much of a penalty for that lapse in safety.


However, you don't want to skip drinking water on your flight altogether. Staying hydrated is one way to help combat jet lag. So when you ask for water, say that you want the bottled variety without ice, or remember to put a refillable water bottle in your carry-on bag and fill it up at the airport after security.

Flight attendants don't recommend the in-air coffee

You might want a coffee if you want a pick-me-up on your early morning flight. Think again — the flight crew uses the same water that potentially contains harmful bacteria to make the coffee and tea on the plane. However, for one flight attendant on TikTok, water isn't the biggest issue with these drink options. Creator @ichbinvin posted about how flight attendants handle coffee pots — purportedly, they're dumped out into toilets (not sinks) from a close distance. These same pots then go back to being used to serve coffee.


@ichbinvin is not the only flight attendant who has warned fliers off of coffee. Creator @katkamalani posted a similar video to TikTok, and she claimed that the coffee machines, in general, just don't really get cleaned. Even if the coffee may not be unsafe to drink, there's a definite "ick" factor, and it may not taste all that good if it's being made in machines that don't get cleaned frequently.

Diet Coke takes longer to pour in a plane

While asking for a Diet Coke may not be so much of a health and safety issue as the coffee and tap water could be, it turns out that Diet Coke is a bit of a hassle to pour. Airplanes are pressurized, but not to sea level, to about 7,000 feet. This change in pressure means that carbonated beverages act differently, and they're foamier and bubblier than they would be when you're on the ground. This means they take longer to pour with Diet Coke as the worst option. It's something that's demonstrated in a TikTok video by creator @ariel.cisneros1.


The sweeteners in diet sodas, including Diet Coke, lower the drink's surface tension, making the bubbles last longer. This isn't to say that ordering Diet Coke is inherently wrong, just that it may take a bit longer to get your drink order. It might also explain why, on some full flights, you get handed a can of Diet Coke to open and pour yourself instead of the flight attendant doing it for you.

A Bloody Mary contains a lot of salt

If you got up early to board your flight for a long-awaited vacation, you might want to get the party started by ordering a Bloody Mary. From a flavor perspective, this may be the ideal time to enjoy the cocktail; a 2016 study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance concluded that the taste of tomato juice really shines while soaring through the air due to the influence of sound on taste. However, considering the amount of sodium in a Bloody Mary, it would be best if you rethought indulging in the classic brunch drink mid-flight.


Too much salt can lead to water retention and contribute to swelling your legs and feet, which is already pretty common when flying, especially on longer flights. While the swelling typically goes away, it can be an issue if you have a condition that makes you prone to blood clots. Increased salt intake can also cause bloating, which can leave you feeling uncomfortable during and after your flight. The in-flight food amplifies this salt impact. The lowered air pressure in the plane, which makes your Diet Coke more fizzy, plus the dryness of the air, causes your taste and smell perception to go down. To counteract that, the snacks and meals served on planes are often intentionally made with more salt to help give them more taste.


Skip the doubles and the bubbles with your in-flight booze

While a Bloody Mary may be off the table, thanks to its high salt content, you may still want to start your trip with an alcoholic drink. But don't think you can imbibe the same way in the air as you do on the ground. Assume one drink on the plane would be like having two back home, so don't order a double. It's not that your blood alcohol level is higher on the plane, but instead that the decreased oxygen in the cabin may result in you feeling the impacts of a drink sooner.


Consuming alcohol can also add to the dehydration that comes from flying, and if you're hoping to get off the plane to do some sightseeing or get some work done, that's going to be a lot harder if you're hungover and dehydrated. Skip beer and sparkling wine as they can cause bloating. If you want a drink on the plane, pick something that can be served with club soda. For wine, consider a white over a red, as the latter is often higher in alcohol content and contains more additives, which can increase dehydration.