Drinks Flight Attendants Wish You Would Stop Ordering

Other than the final landing announcement by the captain, the drink trolley slowly making its way through the cabin is one of the most exciting sounds on an airplane. As passengers, complimentary inflight beverage service is a welcome respite 36,000 feet up in the air. However, there are certain drinks that, while popular among travelers, can be a source of frustration for the cabin crew — due to the difficulty of service, surprising hygienic reasons, or the health effects of the beverage. This article reveals the drinks that flight attendants wish you would stop ordering and why.

A cup of hot tea or coffee might seem like a comforting choice, especially on early-morning or late-night flights, but it might not be the best idea. The water used for these hot drinks is not bottled — it comes directly from the tap water pipes on the plane. According to flight attendant Jamila Hardwick, "the pipes are rarely cleaned," and airlines are only mandated to clean the plane's water tanks four times a year (via Distractify). Another flight attendant on TikTok (katkamalani) explains that although the coffee pots do get occasionally cleaned, the entire machine is rarely cleaned. Essentially, it's a cup of joe with a whole lotta germs. 

Beyond the sanitary reasons, hot drinks can be a headache for flight attendants. The occasional turbulence at high altitudes makes it challenging to serve coffee and tea without risking spills. The limited resources on board make it time-consuming to prepare individual hot beverages, leading to longer waiting times for other passengers. Moreover, if you're a coffee aficionado, specialty coffee may not be something you can get on your flight. The equipment required for a latte or cappuccino is not typically available unless you're sitting in business or first-class. 

Diet Coke: The neverending fizz

Diet sodas, particularly Diet Coke, are infamous among flight attendants. The reason? Diet Coke fizzes for too long. When you open a soda, the highly pressurized CO2 inside escapes into the lower-pressure air, creating fizz or bubbles. At higher altitudes, where the pressure difference is greater, sodas fizz more and go flat quicker. Regular Coca-Cola isn't as fizzy as Diet Coke because of its whopping 39 grams of sugar. The high sugar content makes its bubbles weaker and pop faster, while Diet Coke's bubbles are smaller and last longer.

This extra fizz means it takes longer to pour a single can of Diet Coke compared to other beverages, slowing down the service process. Just look at this demonstration on Tiktok from user ariel.cisneros1. On Redbook, a flight attendant explains, "The amount of time it took for the fizz to go down on a Diet Coke, I could have easily poured five other drinks in the interim." There is a trick flight attendants use to speed up this process — flipping the entire can upside down to reduce pouring time and flatten the bubbles. Nonetheless, the time it takes for the fizz to settle can be frustrating for both the crew and the next thirsty passenger waiting for their drink.

If you absolutely must get your Diet Coke fix, ask for the entire can. That way, you get a glass with ice and you can wait for the fizz to calm down yourself. Plus, you'll have the honor of being the cabin hero by speeding up drink service for other passengers and helping out the flight attendants..

Excessively sweet or salty beverages

Sugarcoating can make some things easier, but it won't make your in-flight or post-flight experience any sweeter. High up in the sky, the dry air and cabin pressure change how our senses function. Flavors of sweetness and saltiness are dulled by nearly 30%, driving your cravings for certain foods or drinks. However, all that sugar, salt, and artificial flavoring can lead to headaches and nausea, make you feel more dehydrated, increase feet swelling (very unpleasant on long-haul flights), and exacerbate jet lag symptoms. 

Bloody Mary, the concoction of spiced tomato juice with an optional splash of vodka, is a favorite on flights. Why? Because of your altitude-modified tastebuds — Bloody Marys taste terrific because they are chock-full of sodium. However, that's the last thing you need. "When flying, I also avoid [sodium] and advise to avoid tomato juice at all costs. I say this because a Bloody Mary Mix contains 12 times more sodium than a soft drink," says an American Airlines flight attendant in an interview with The Sun. Sodas, juices, and, ultimately, any drink with a high sugar or salt content are best avoided.

However, we can't blame you if plain water is too boring and you need that little hit of flavor. To sugarcoat your in-flight beverage experience, bring vitamin C packets, water-enhancing drops, electrolyte powder, or any other kind of healthy water-flavoring mixes. They will give you that tastebud adventure you're looking for but without all the sugar. Plus, if you bring a product that contains antioxidants and vitamins, you get added health benefits that your body desperately needs in the immune-compromising cabin environment. Because these packets are small, they're also TSA-approved to bring onboard in your carry-on! 

Doubles and mixologist-level alcoholic drinks

A take-off glass of bubbly or a whiskey on the rocks is commonplace, fun, and even cinematic. However, an inflight buzz is something flight attendants strongly advise against. First, alcohol is a diuretic, which means you'll become dehydrated quicker and pee more often — not fun. Second, due to the altitude of the cabin, barometric pressure is lower, so your body's ability to absorb oxygen is diminished. The lowered level of oxygen in the blood can make you feel drunk a lot quicker than usual. Whether you're a lightweight or a self-professed drinking champion, this affects everyone equally. 

While enjoying a drink or two on a flight is not uncommon, excessive alcohol requests can be a concern. Other than the health effects, overconsumption of alcohol can potentially lead to disruptive behavior. Flight attendants are trained to handle such situations, but they prefer to avoid them by moderating alcohol service. First-class passengers are especially notorious for ordering doubles and triples because they're free. According to travel expert Rana Good, "One drink in the air is the same as two drinks on the ground" (via BestLife). Generally, a two-drink maximum for the entire flight is advised. Being that drunk person on the plane is not a good look, and landing with a hangover is even worse. 

While some airlines offer a range of alcoholic beverages, overly complicated or specific cocktail requests can be problematic. The limited space and resources on a plane mean that flight attendants can't always accommodate intricate drink orders. These requests can also slow down service and sometimes lead to disappointment if the drink can't be made as desired. In a nutshell, ditch the alcohol in-flight and treat yourself with a celebratory drink once you arrive at your destination. 

Tap water: Anything but innocent

Asking for a glass of tap water might seem like a straightforward request, but it's one that flight attendants do not recommend. The primary concern with airplane tap water is its quality. While airplanes do have water tanks that are periodically filled and are supposed to be regularly sanitized, some reports have raised concerns about the safety of this water. The tanks can be a breeding ground for bacteria, primarily because they are not cleaned as frequently as they should be. According to a 2019 Airline Water Study, various major and regional U.S. carriers had tap water contaminated with E. coli and coliform. 

Another issue is the potential for contamination during the refilling process at airports. The municipal water sources at local airports and the equipment used to fill these tanks might not always meet the highest sanitation standards. In some cases, the water used is not potable and may contain various contaminants. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has established guidelines under the Aircraft Drinking Water Rule (ADWR) to ensure safe drinking water on aircraft. However, compliance and enforcement of these regulations can vary, and not all airlines or countries may adhere to these standards strictly.

Considering these factors, flight attendants and frequent flyers advise against drinking tap water on planes. This includes avoiding beverages made with tap water, like tea or coffee, not drinking or refilling from the tap water in the washroom, and not using it for brushing teeth. Instead, use bottled water for all of these needs. Bottled water is served onboard (often complimentary), and you can always refill or purchase some at the airport prior to takeoff. 

What should you drink while flying?

The one and only drink to rule them all — good old-fashioned water. Bottled water, specifically. Flying presents a unique environment, one that significantly impacts your body in a way that's different from being on the ground. According to the WHO, one of the most notable aspects of air travel is the cabin's humidity level, typically much lower than what we experience in our daily lives — around 20% or less, sometimes hitting a dangerous 5%. This low humidity leads to dehydration, which in turn, can cause dry skin, fatigue, headaches, and all kinds of other problems. Drinking water is one of the most effective ways to combat this. 

Alcohol, caffeine, sugary and salty drinks, fizzy sodas, and all other kinds of unhealthy deliciousness can dehydrate you further and affect your overall comfort during the flight. Both alcohol and caffeine are diuretics, exacerbating the dehydration issue. And we won't even go into how fizzy drinks make you gassy, something not pleasant on a long-haul, middle-seat flying situation. Sugary drinks can cause headaches, sleep problems, and fluctuations in blood sugar levels. Unlike all these guilty pleasures, water helps maintain your body's hydration levels with no adverse effects, ensuring a more comfortable and pleasant flight experience.

Another reason to opt for water is related to onboard practicality and safety. Simple beverages like water require less time and effort for flight attendants to serve, making the service process smoother and more efficient for everyone. Bottled water is the drink of choice for flight attendants, and considering their flying history and expertise, we're inclined to trust them. As far as how much water you should be drinking, the golden rule is eight ounces of water every hour, according to the Aerospace Medical Association