The Disgusting Reason Flight Attendants Say No One Should Drink Coffee On Airplanes

If you drink coffee on your flights, think again.

woman on airplane Prathankarnpap/ Shutterstock

A flight attendant going by the alias of "Betty" has come forward under the condition of anonymity to reveal that, among other confessions from the friendly skies, passengers on commercial flights should never (ever, ever, ever) drink the coffee served on airplanes by flight attendants.

Seems bizarre, right? Why on Earth shouldn't you be able to indulge in a little caffeinated perk while traveling?


Well, because the water used to brew said coffee comes from the same source as the water they use to... operate the plane's lavatories!

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*Cue the sounds of the gaping maw of hell opening to emit forth the virulent sounds of a million souls*


Not only does this fun fact about airplane coffee water sound disgusting, but it could also be hazardous for your health.

As Betty told Vice in 2018, "We recently had a test for E. coli in our water and it didn’t pass, and then maintenance came on and hit a couple of buttons and it passed. So, avoid any hot water or tea. Bottled and ice is fine, of course."

For those who aren't familiar, Healthline explains the troubles with E. coli as follows:

"E. coli s a type of bacteria that normally live in the intestines of people and animals. However, some types of E. coli, particularly E. coli O157:H7, can cause intestinal infection... Symptoms of intestinal infection include diarrhea, abdominal pain, and fever. More severe cases can lead to bloody diarrhea, dehydration, or even kidney failure. People with weakened immune systems, pregnant women, young children, and older adults are at increased risk for developing these complications."


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You can say I'm being a drama queen all you want, but the fact remains, we now have it on professional authority that if you imbibe coffee during air travel, you are literally drinking toilet water that could potentially endanger your life.

A spokesperson for EasyJet confirmed that the same potable water used to make coffee and tea for passengers is also used to flush the plane's toilets.

However, they claim this does not make the practice unsafe, assuring potential fliers, "There is absolutely no chance of any cross-contamination due to the system’s plumbing design. This is commonplace amongst most aircraft manufacturers and airlines. Fresh water is loaded onto the aircraft daily."


That may well be the case, but just because the water is labeled safe to drink, that's clearly not always the case — at least, not if the anonymous flight attendant in question is to be believed.

She likely should be, as findings from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) back her up.

If you've been keeping up with your airplane-related liquids news (and who among us hasn't been doing that? LOL!), you know that in 2012 the EPA tested the freshwater supply on commercial flights and found that 12 percent tested positive for coliform bacteria, a major indicator that E. coli may be just around the stinking, fetid bend.

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If that isn't enough information to change your mind, you should know that a 2016 thread on AskReddit shed light on two additional factors.

  • "The coffee is absolutely disgusting because no one washes the container that goes out every morning. The station agents who get paid way too little don't [care] about cleaning it... Also, we weren't given the proper supplies to clean it. We pretty much just rinsed it out and dumped coffee into it."

  • "Sometimes, the vehicle that fills the potable water for washing hands and making coffee is parked next to the vehicle that is used to dump the [toilets] and fill the blue juice for the lavs. They're not supposed to. Sometimes, they're parked at a distance from each other, which is policy, yet the guy who is filling the water is using gloves that he hasn't changed in over 2 years."

To top it all off, an article in Travel + Leisure Magazine quotes another flight attendant who states, “Those [potable water] tanks are probably only cleaned out every six months to a year.”


Frankly, it's unwise to drink caffeine while flying anyway.

If you're looking for silver linings, even if they're closer to silver-plated, we lose a lot of water when we are in the air, so hydration should be the order of the day rather than pumping up caffeine levels, which only dehydrates you in the process.

If you're looking for the best beverage to drink on a plane, stick to bottled water from a reliable source, although do yourself a favor and purchase it after you get past security. The last thing you need is one more airport headache to wrestle with!


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Rebecca Jane Stokes is an editor, freelance writer, former Senior Staff Writer for YourTango, and the former Senior Editor of Pop Culture at Newsweek. Her bylines have appeared in Fatherly, Gizmodo, Yahoo Life, Jezebel, Apartment Therapy, Bustle, Cosmopolitan, SheKnows, and many others.