Few things can be as stressful as flying. If you find yourself feeling slightly uneasy about being dangled 30,000 feet in the air, you’re definitely not alone. Ordinarily, there are a few options for dealing with such a situation. The first, and easily the most favourable, is grab a glass of something strong, cold and alcoholic and knock yourself for the duration of the flight. This solution is almost always improved with the addition of a few ice cubes. Unfortunately, herein lies a problem.
It turns out that there are a couple of unexpected issues with ordering ice whilst airborne. It might be surprising to learn, but you are probably better off accepting your drinks lukewarm than asking for a few extra cubes. Here are the weird reasons why you should never order ice on an aeroplane.
A 2017 study published in the classic page-turner “Annals of Microbiology” turned up some interesting findings about domestic and industrial ice makers. In some 60 samples tested by experts, no less than 52 different strains of bacteria were discovered, some capable of causing serious food poisoning. Though many were killed off by alcohol exposure, the study suggested that ice makers are nonetheless ripe breeding grounds for bacteria.
2. The Water
In 2011, industry whistleblowers finally called out the air industry on the quality of the water that they served to travellers, after it was in many cases discovered to contain traces of fecal bacteria. However, a 2018 study into the same issue found that water inside tanks on airplanes - often used to make ice - were still riddled with the same strain as in 2011. According to a report by Business Insider in 2017, even flight attendants refuse to consume ice made from aeroplane tap water for fear of infection.
With so many people rotating on and off an enclosed space, you’d think that a good scrub down would be a minimum requirement. Unfortunately, this turns out not to be the case. Shockingly, there are some aviation authorities, including the United States’, that do not enforce mandatory cleaning times on aeroplanes, meaning that those serving you ice will often come into contact with lurking germs hiding in tray tables, seat pockets and anywhere else that’s hard to reach.
4. Ice trays
Along with the rest of the plane, there are no hard and fast rules governing just how often American ice cube trays have to be cleaned by the crew. This can give potentially harmful bacteria a chance to grow, before being transferred via ice to your drink. Though you might think that sub zero temperatures and the freezing process would be enough to kill any bugs before they do any damage, a 2015 from the riveting “Internal Journal of Food Microbiology” suggests that several dangerous strains can survive in extremely low temperatures with relative ease.
It might seem like the most natural thing in the world to ask for a cube of something cold to finish off your favourite tipple. Unfortunately in this case, the facts speak for themselves. Though the reality is that you will probably be fine, there’s always a risk of something disastrous. The last thing you want is to spend a 12-hour flight clenched to the toilet.