These Airlines Have the Cleanest and Dirtiest Drinking Water Onboard

As we’ve written before, it’s best to avoid drinking water onboard a flight unless the water is bottled. Tap water (which isn’t served often except in coffee and tea) comes from the plane’s holding tanks, which aren’t that clean, and water usually must pass through multiple channels to get onto a plane in the first place.

Well, as you might guess, some airlines fly with cleaner tap water than others. And that’s just what the results of the comprehensive 2019 Airline Water Study—conducted by Hunter College NYC Food Policy Center and and written up by Smarter Travel—have concluded. Among the major airlines examined, Alaska Airlines and Allegiant scored best, each with a 3.3/5. Hawaiian Airlines, whose water scored a 3.1/5, was right behind them. JetBlue and Spirit Airlines, meanwhile, scored worst with a 1/5.

Here’s the full list of scores given to major airlines:

  • Alaska Airlines: 3.3
  • Allegiant Air: 3.3
  • Hawaiian Airlines: 3.1
  • Frontier Airlines: 2.6
  • Southwest Airlines: 2.4
  • Delta Air Lines: 1.6
  • American Airlines: 1.5
  • United Airlines: 1.2
  • JetBlue: 1
  • Spirit Airlines: 1

Here’s the list of scores given to regional carriers:

  • Piedmont Airlines: 4.33
  • Sun Country Airlines: 2.78
  • Envoy Air: 2.11
  • GoJet Airlines: 2
  • Trans States Airlines: 1.78
  • Compass Airlines 1.22
  • PSA Airlines: 1.22
  • SkyWest Airlines 1.11
  • Endeavor Air: 0.78
  • Air Wisconsin Airlines: 0.68
  • ExpressJet Airlines: 0.56
  • Republic Airways: 0.44

More takeaways

The study found that:

  • “Nearly all regional airlines, except Piedmont, have poor Water Health Scores and a large number of ADWR violations.”
  • “The number of ADWR violations by all airlines in 2018 was significantly less than the number in 2012, the first year after the ADWR was enacted” but “the decrease might reflect a lack of enforcement by the EPA, which has issued few penalties in recent years.”

It also advises flyers to “NEVER drink any water onboard that isn’t in a sealed bottle” and to “not drink coffee or tea onboard.” For much more, including more detailed scores and analysis for each airline, see the results of the 2019 Airline Water Study here.

More on the study

The airlines and carriers above each had their water tested and given a “Water Health Score” of 0-5 (5 being the highest) “based on,” per the write-up, “10 criteria, including fleet size, ADWR violations, positive E. coli and coliform water sample reports and cooperation in providing answers to water-quality questions. A score of 3.0 or better indicates that the airline has relatively safe, clean water.”

The write-up also notes that all American carriers must abide by the EPA’s Aircraft Drinking Water Rule and handed out a “‘Shame on You’ Award…to the EPA and nearly all major airlines (regional airlines weren’t contacted) for their very poor response time and lack of cooperation answering detailed questions.”

More on water and staying hydrated

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