Flight Attendant Shares the Gross Reason You Should Never Order Coffee or Tea on a Plane

Robin Zlotnick - Author

Sep. 23 2019, Updated 1:12 p.m. ET

We all know that airplanes aren't the most sanitary places in the world. People tend to do weird things while they're tens of thousands of feet in the air. Some take off their shoes and start scrolling through the screen on the seatback with their bare toes. Others fully take their pants off as if that's an acceptable thing to do. 

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You can kind of understand why Naomi Campbell obsessively wipes down her plane seat and area before she sits down on any flight. People are disgusting. But not only do the passengers contribute to the unsanitary conditions on a plane. One flight attendant has revealed that there are other cleanliness concerns you should take into consideration before your next trip. 

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Speaking with Insider Edition, flight attendant Jamila Hardwick first and foremost cautions passengers against ordering coffee or tea on any flight. Those hot beverages don't use bottled water, and the water pipes on an airplane are almost never cleaned.

"The thing about the coffee and the tea," Jamila says, "is that the pipes are rarely cleaned." Airlines are apparently only required to disinfect and flush the water tanks four times a year. I don't know how often water tanks are usually cleaned, but for a big bucket of germs hurtling through space, I would expect that airplane water tanks could use more frequent washings. The bottom line is if a flight attendant wouldn't do it, I won't either. They know better than I do about what goes on behind the scenes. 

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But that's not the only revelation Jamila afforded us in this eye-opening video. If you're not going to order coffee or tea, the video's narrator suggests, how about Diet Coke? Well, it turns out Diet Coke is the drink flight attendants least like to pour because it fizzes more than any other drink.

"I don't know what it is about the chemistry in Diet Coke and us being 40,000 feet in the air, but by the time it takes us to pour one Diet Coke, we could have three other drinks poured," Jamila says.

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unsanitary plane
Source: iStock Photo

I always want to be as easy a passenger as possible for the flight attendants, and now I know that not ordering Diet Coke is one way to do that! Another thing you should never do — and possibly the most shocking revelation in the video — is ask a flight attendant to help you with your overhead bags before the plane takes off. 

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Jamila explains, "We do not get paid until the boarding door is closed. If we put that bag in the big and we get hurt, we do not get to write it off as an on-job injury." How crummy is that? Flight attendants already have extremely taxing jobs. They don't need that added stress.

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Jamila really does a service to all of of us who travel by giving us these tips. In addition to avoiding coffee, tea, and Diet Coke, she says, we should always bring our own pillows and blankets to use on planes as well. While Jamila knows that the ones provided by the airlines are washed, it remains to be seen how often. And the pillow covers are washed but the pillows themselves? Probably not. 

That's nice and horrifying, isn't it?! Think about all the heads and hair and sweat that have been smushed into that pillow without being washed. It's terrifying to think about! 

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Oh, and Naomi Campbell's wet wipe obsession? It's not over-the-top at all. "Oh my gosh, this is disgusting," Jamila says in reference to the tray tables. "When cleaners come on, they don't have time to wipe down every individual tray, so it's best [to bring] Wet Ones. Please bring them on. Please clean off your trays before you put anything on here." 

Noted. You know how easily you get sick when you travel? Some of that probably has to do with all the germs you come into contact with on a plane. There are easy ways to avoid as much of the grossness as you can! Please take the advice of a professional flight attendant. It will help us all stay sanitary. 

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