Flight attendant shares why water onboard ‘appears cloudy’-‘nothing to do with the water’

Flight attendant explains how to properly pack a bag

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If you have ever received a glass of water or a cup of tea on a flight, you might have noticed it appears slightly cloudy. According to a flight attendant, this is actually pretty common and often leads passengers to question “whether it’s safe to drink”.

Posting to a Reddit forum dedicated to “disturbing secrets that passengers should know”, the crew member explained the cloudy water isn’t actually anything to worry about.

Under the username HausOfDarling, the crew member explained: “Everyone asks about the water and whether it’s safe to drink.

“To clarify, the tanks are cleaned out but it depends on what you define as regularly.

“Ours go a maximum of a week before being scrubbed out.

“It’s basic health and safety.

“Also our boilers have filters inbuilt before pouring tea or coffee.

“I’ve seen people not want to drink the water because it appears cloudy.

“This is nothing to do with the water and is due to the air pressure.

“If you tap the side of your bottle or cup, the bubbles will dissipate quickly.”

Sharing to Quora, Malcom Sergeant, a water treatment worker, explained that the cloudy appearance mostly involves a mixture of oxygen and nitrogen in the water.

He said: “Water at ground level dissolves about 10 ppm of oxygen and a little nitrogen from the air.

“While the plane is in flight the water begins to warm up, particularly when poured into glasses for consumption.

“When the water is warmer and also agitated the dissolved oxygen comes out of solution and makes the water misty.

“If you leave the water sitting for a while the oxygen bubbles will coalesce and the water will clear, some bubbles will be seen on the side of the glass.” [SIC]

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Mostly, tap water on flights is used for hot drinks, while cold or room temperature drinking water is served in bottles.

Hygiene is crucial onboard a flight, and airlines must follow strict rules about how often they sanitise water systems.

Since COVID-19 many airlines have ramped up their onboard cleaning routine.

However, in the US, although federal law requires airlines to provide safe drinking water, a 2019 scientific study concluded that passengers should avoid drinking tap water on planes due to the frequency with which airline water is found to contain harmful bacteria.

Airlines are required to disinfect and flush each aircraft water tank four times per year, claimed the study.

This excludes airlines who opt to have their tanks tested monthly, meaning they are only required to disinfect and flush once annually.

At the time, Charles Platkin, the editor of DietDetective.com and the executive director of the Hunter College NYC Food Policy Center, said: “Regional airlines need to improve their onboard water safety.”

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