Air travel is incredible and thrilling in many ways. But there’s one icky feature not many people know about. The ice on board is rife with bacteria. It’s not for the squeamish, but you’ll want to read on to understand why you should never eat ice on a flight.

Flight attendants spread bacteria

Once mid-flight, it’s not long before a friendly flight attendant will offer you a drink. But before this occurs, the flight attendants are busy! At any given time, the flight crew is multitasking. From serving meals to handling luggage – and maybe even holding a baby or two, their hands touch all the surfaces around the plane. Those same hands plunge into the ice bin at drink service.

Recent studies uncovered that bacteria thrives in the ice bin and airplane water tank. With flight attendants multitasking and often unable to wash their hands between each interaction, the potential for contamination becomes a real concern. Their primary focus and work function is ensuring your safety and comfort. But there can be unintentional transfer of bacteria from various surfaces to your ice, and it’s an unfortunate side effect of their demanding role.

Airplane water tanks are not bacteria-free

Another factor contributing to bacterial contamination of airplane ice is the source of the water itself. The water tanks on planes are vulnerable to contamination due to a variety of reasons. These tanks, which supply water for everything from coffee to ice, are susceptible to pollutants and bacteria if not properly maintained.

Studies have shown that some airlines struggle to maintain the cleanliness of their water tanks, leading to a potential breeding ground for harmful microorganisms. Considering the interconnected nature of the water supply system on an aircraft, any contamination in the tank can find its way into your drink and, consequently, into your system.

Between flight cleaning crews can’t fix this problem

Airplanes operate on tight schedules, with cleaning crews racing against the clock to prepare the cabin for the next set of passengers. Unfortunately, this time crunch can compromise the thoroughness of the cleaning process. Understaffed and overworked cleaning crews may not have sufficient time to give the ice machines the attention they deserve.

The hurried pace between flights leaves little room for meticulous cleaning, increasing the likelihood of lingering bacteria in the ice-making apparatus. While airlines are committed to maintaining hygiene standards, the reality of the fast-paced industry can sometimes mean that corners are unintentionally cut.

While it’s challenging to entirely avoid ice during air travel, being aware of these factors allows you to make informed choices. Opting for beverages without ice or choosing bottled options can be simple yet effective ways to reduce the risk of consuming bacteria-laden cubes. And it’s what the flight attendants themselves usually do (opt for the bottle sans ice).

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