Secret #1: All about Water at 40,000′
A whole comedy sketch could be done about drinking water on an airplane.
Here’s why it’s worth shelling out $5 for airport bottled water or bringing your own refillable container.
Water = Hydration
The cabin of an airplane has less moisture than the Sahara Desert. For every hour you are in the air, you lose a pint of water.
If you don’t want to reach your destination puckered like a grape in the sun, drink up.
Before flight attendants everywhere rush to their keyboards to spew hate mail at me,
Airport Refillable water stations
Yes, airport bottled water is a ridiculous price. Many airports are adopting filtered water dispensing stations so passengers can refill their water bottles. Nifty!
Yes, it is nifty. Two for the price of one nifty. Which is why it’s equally baffling that people rarely take advantage of this feature.
Oh, you’ll just ask your friendly flight attendant to fill your gallon jug on the airplane?
BUZZZ! Sorry Charlie, wrong answer.
Bring your own bottled water.
Everything and I mean EVERYTHING today is done to save money and time. The DOT (Department of Transportation) ranks airlines in terms of on-time departures.
Many airplanes today are catered to serve more than one flight.
Every day, passengers wave their Big Gulp containers at us like we’re a Nascar pit stop crew,
“Fill ‘er up!”
And give us attitude when we politely refuse.
As the old joke goes:
“This is an MD-11, not a 7-11.”
Um, yea that’s funny but… I don’t get it.
Flight attendants do not have enough water on board to fill up everyone’s personal container nor are we able to dash out for supplies.
We’d rather suffer a little attitude from you than the next crew who discovers we’ve broken into their stash. It becomes a snarl of company mail between crews, supervisors and catering so please don’t expect us to make an exception on your behalf.
No one likes paperwork.
Or regulations. This is where the Health Department comes in.
There are valid regulations against pouring bottled water for public consumption into any personal beverage container as precautionary measures against transferring communicable disease.
In California alone, local health departments are required to report some 80 communicable diseases to the State Department of Public Health.
Chances are you don’t have a communicable disease.
Chances are, others on board don’t either.
But we really don’t want to take chances on starting a 21st century plague.
So please, bring your own bottled water, use the refillable stations in the airports and don’t hassle the flight attendant when s/he declines to refill it.
Ok Val, that’s great information but…
Can I refill my water bottle from the tap?
You can but I wouldn’t recommend it because… Eeew.
The exception: It’s boiled for coffee or tea. More about that later.
Airplanes have separate holding tanks:
1. One tank for the potable water used in coffee makers and faucets.
2. One tank for blue juice. This is the (generally) blue swirl you see when you use the airplane bathroom, aka the restroom, biffy, lav, loo, bano, etc.
The potable water tank may be and often is depleted in a single flight. If so, more is added to the tank.
The lavatories are dumped after every flight. I don’t know the exact particulars but I know at times the particulars may not be exact and used blue juice may dribble, spill or overflow onto the ramp.
Separate hoses are used to pump in 1. potable water and 2. blue juice.
Now, in the hurry-hurry-hurry to meet those DOT on-time stats, sometimes haste makes waste.
Like, the mouth of the hose for potable water may accidentally drag through the lavatory dump on the ramp before it’s connected to the water tank.
Are you following me?
I have not seen this as I’m not on the ramp during this process. But I have been personally told this by others who are, so…
Don’t drink the tap water. Unless it’s boiled.
Coffee and tea are boiled. The water that comes through the coffeemakers is scalding hot and, apparently, this sterilizes it for consumption.
But I mean, c’mon. In a society that crams 100,000 chickens in a filthy chicken house and shoves antibiotics down their throats so we don’t get sick when we eat them, are you really going to worry about whether the boiling temperature is sufficient to kill ALL the bacteria?
Rest assured, the airplane mechanics scrub the water holding tanks on a fairly regular basis.
And every so often on a Blue Moon Monday, the coffee tastes a tad like chemicals. It’s a very distinct not-to-be missed flavor so even the Seattle folks who make onboard lattés with a dozen creams and sugars will likely detect it.
I asked a mechanic about this. He said, “Don’t drink the water.”
That decision is left in your hands.
Yes, even flight attendants experience water retention aka edema, the accumulation of fluids in the body. Here’s a few tips to make it more bearable and ease the bloat/gas pressure from a flight.
#1 is what again? Drink water.
No matter how much you drink, your body will hold onto more than usual during a flight. Why compound it to make matters worse?
I don’t know, but people do. I’m genuinely appalled when people order:
Tomato juice, bloody mary mix or Clamato (if you’re a Canuck).
One cup = 600+ mg of sodium.
Drink this on top of consuming airplane food that’s loaded with sodium and preservatives.
Add a diet coke with 60 more mg sodium. And speaking of diet coke or any other carbonated beverage, add gas (bubbles).
Then your friendly flight crew tosses out pretzels which used to be peanuts until the PC version of airplane snacks showed up thanks to peanut allergies. Now we have the gluten allergens to contend with so instead of pretzels we have cookies.
What about the diabetics?
It never ends.
Ok so we have sodium, preservatives and beverages loaded with salt and/or gas in a pressurized cabin at 8,000′ altitude.
At altitude, gas expands. POP goes the button.
Gas contracts on descent but it seems to be a far slower process in the body than an empty water bottle.
Land and roll off the plane.
Be prepared for the contraction to continue the rest of the day while you go on your merry way and hopefully, not to meet a hot date or don a bikini.
One final tip on water retention
Never go shopping for clothes or worse yet, bikinis or sun-wear the day you land.
Trust me, it’s like looking at a funhouse mirror of yourself, an optical illusion under fluorescent lighting.
Save it for the next day. Keep drinking water.
You might be up 5x that night to shed 5 lbs of water retained during flight but it will be worth it when you look in the mirror in the morning.