This Is Why You Should Never Get Ice In Your Drink While Flying

Updated: Jun. 02, 2023

An iced beverage may sound like a refreshing option on a flight, but there's a reason you should avoid ordering one.

Airplane food tends to have an infamous reputation—perhaps with good reason, as it can easily be prone to contamination. Keeping this in mind, travelers might think opting for a drink during a flight is a safer inflight dining option. I mean, what’s the harm in a glass of ice water, right?

Well, as it turns out, an airplane’s water supply may not be so harmless. There’s actually a reason why water and any iced drinks on airplanes should be avoided.

Why shouldn’t I order a drink with ice while flying?

Similar to airplane food, ice on planes tend to be subject to contamination. That means a simple cup of ice water or any other beverage with ice can be home to pools of bacteria—more specifically, E.coli and coliform bacteria.

What causes water contamination on a plane?

Cup Rests on Lap tray on the back of a passenger seat of a commercial airplaneburakkarademir/Getty Images

Before an iced drink arrives at your airplane tray, airplane water and ice is handled and may come into contact with multiple surfaces. Both of these factors can easily lead to the contamination of an iced beverage.

One of the most important surfaces ice comes in contact with is an airplane’s water tank. A plane’s water tank is used in the preparation of drinks and to provide water to its bathroom sink. A 2015 study even found that “aircraft water supply tanks are conducive for microbial growth.” In other words, the tap water on planes can potentially cause bacterial contamination in anything it comes across. Many flight attendants stay healthy by avoiding tap beverages on planes, too.

While ice can also arrive at the airplane via a third-party vendor, it still has the potential for contamination.

What should passengers do instead?

Fortunately, according to Katie Heil, Seller/Server Learning Experience Design Manager at Certus, most adults can handle beverage contamination even if it does happen. “Most healthy adults have strong enough immune systems to ingest them without consequences,” she explains.

Nonetheless, to exercise caution, Heil suggests that passengers purchase a bottle of water ahead of time. You can also bring a bottle of water through airport security if you know a savvy travel secret.