Denied Water in Business Class: My Surprising British Airways Experience

Prior to takeoff of my British Airways flight from London Heathrow to Austin, while flight attendants were serving predeparture beverages in business class, I tweeted that I’d been told I could not have water as my beverage.

British Airways business class pre-departure beverage, I was just denied a glass of water.

Champagne and orange juice only: “You already have a bottle of water at your seat, sir.”

A flight attendant asked if I wanted a beverage. I asked for water. They had a tray with orange juice and champagne. This was more controversial than I’d expected. There were generally 3 strands of responses.

  1. You’re an entitled jerk. You already had water, you should drink that before asking for more. This response primarily came from flight attendants.

  2. First world problems. Well, yes. As I wrote “Welcome to frequent flyer twitter. You must be new here.”

  3. Water is pretty basic not least of which (1) in business class, (2) while flight attendants are literally offering drinks.

They were offering predeparture beverages. I wasn’t asking for a cocktail, or for them to brew coffee. I was asking for a glass of water.

There was a bottle already at my seat, but I was saving that for the flight. Since they were offering drinks, I figured I’d use that opportunity to get more water. On my previous flight I’d asked for a second bottle and was told no. I was told they’d run out by midflight.

Here’s why my request seemed pretty reasonable, and I felt like the response wasn’t.

  • On my previous flight, and indeed on every flight in my lifetime where predeparture beverages have been offered, I’ve been able to get water.

  • The flight wasn’t delayed, and was fully boarded. It wasn’t as though passengers were up in the aisle. (On the Airbus A350 they board everyone from the front of the aircraft.) The cabin wasn’t even close to full, in fact around a quarter of the seats were empty.

  • The flight attendant did not apologize, or tell me that they just couldn’t accommodate the request because they were too busy. They just said no.

Note that I did not push back. I didn’t give the flight attendant a hard time. I simply asked one time for water, and accepted the ‘no’. But I shared the story because the interaction seemed odd to me. Does that make me an entitled jerk?

I did eventually get a glass of water in the air, along with my packaged nuts (such a low class replacement for the nuts BA used to serve).

Does it somehow make me “entitled” an “a-hole” or a “d-bag” as some suggested to ask for water as my predeparture beverage when a crewmember comes around offering drinks, when there’s already a bottle of water pre-placed at my seat?

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. @PaulG – on many airlines they will absolutely make you a cappuccino when asked.

    – water is a standard on the tray
    – didn’t even know it wasn’t on the tray
    – just a rude response to asking
    – we’re literally talking about a cup of water, not a cappuccino

  2. In ye old country we tend to refer to them as ‘cabin crew’ ..flight attendant is so USA..

    If you look at, there is only reference to cabin crew, flight lead and flight manager.

    On a recent flights from Larnaca to Heathrow, cabin crew would not offer Ice to economy passengers (all of you only seem to fly business) but ice was available to those in club !

  3. I have had the “you have a bottle of water already” a couple of times (during flight, rather than PDB) on airlines other than BA. So now the first thing I do is stick the bottle into one of the storage areas or under a blanket before asking for more water.
    When I lay down to sleep on a long haul flight, I want to have the full bottle of water beside me in case I need it and for when I wake up.

  4. When you fly an ULCC masquerading as a full service airline, you get “cabin crew”. You were expecting an attendant?
    BA would be my absolute last choice on a long haul flight, independent of what class of service you’ve paid.

    There was a time when BA was and would’ve been my first choice. Sadly, they’ve fallen a long way…

  5. Just did a trip to Europe — going there on BA and coming back on AA — both in biz. I was surprised at how much BA has fallen and how I liked my AA trip back (the salmon was actually pretty darn good). Brexit has hit BA pretty hard.

  6. I have determined over many years of flying and many airines experienced that the most hydrating airline on the planet, at least in a premium cabin, is United.

  7. I never fly BA unless I have no other choice. They offer lower quality in air service than budget airlines such as Ryanair whose crew work their socks off and remain helpful and polite to customers. BA staff are entitled bunch who believe they are above giving “service”. My last flight with them was from Larnaca to Heathrow last year. It left 2 hours late with no explanation or apology and no provisions on board with a crew who managed to secure provisions for themselves but not for customers, sitting at the back eating and drinking tea.

  8. I would advise against drinking any water apart from bottled as the water tanks on aircraft can carry any number of baddies and are not cleaned at regular intervals.

  9. I feel your pain and it sounds like a flight attendant power play to me. BA is a poor airline on a good day. After many years traveling overseas for work and holidays, I go out of my way not to fly them, and they’ve gotten worse since the pandemic.

  10. My last trip from Florence to London my BA app stopped functioning between the gate into security: my boarding pass disappeared. Security required a boarding pass to go through, and stopped me, though already unpacked, and un-booted. The BA app had stopped working all together, also trying to re- check-in with my email, BA had stopped functioning. So I was required to get a paper boarding pass: so re-dressing, coat, boots etc, re-packing my stuff: Exiting security only to find. the BA counter closed. Thank goodness the Air France people are able to print me a boarding pass. Grazie to the very nice Italians who let me go ahead, but I did almost miss my flight, and was the last one on board. The flight crew said they would look into it, but I suspect they had better things to do like deny water to the economy class.

  11. I do not understand the hatred toward Gary on this request. I think it is absolutely reasonable – and these days even if you have a bottle of water left pre-flight too.

    I had a flight attendant on Delta, when I asked for a Sprite pre-departure (they had no tray, bottles of water left on the armrest as usual, were even serving booze as PDBs) and he pointed out that I had a full soda I had brought on with me sticking in the seat pocket. My response, which was absolute truth but seemed to offend him was, “I’d prefer one with ice now, while you are up and taking orders. The bottle is for later when you disappear for hours on end and I want something to drink.”

  12. Lazy in flight waitress who’s just there for the perks being a lazy waitress POS. Situation normal.

  13. An apposite example of why people avoid British Airways nowadays. The idea of service, for your $3,000 fare, is completely absent. Stroppy union FAs, and couldn’t-care-less as the management philosophy mean avoid it whenever your schedule allows.

  14. Since passengers can bring frozen items through security, the next time you fly BA, consider getting a frozen frosty beer mug that you bring to your flight and request the flight attendants to keep it filled with water so you can explore BA business class hydration in style and comfort.

  15. Ah Shitish Airways. I have to fly them every now and then – and ugh. Never pleasant or positive in any class of service I’ve lived in London 15 years yet maintained my DL Diamond rather than shift even tho its BA’s hub. If BA didn’t have the mass of LHR slots as captive assets – they’re indistinguishable from Aerolineas Argentinas

  16. Barb – STFU. You’re wrong in this one. If you can’t lift it don’t bring it. And your age is irrelevant. Entitled old bag.

    Rupert – moron.

    Mike – see above. Get back to us when you don’t travel in steerage.

    Dom – get back to sucking on Mike there in the back.

  17. Recently flew BA in Club World/Europe and Euro Traveler. I found the crew on all legs to be perfectly fine. Although I think this water discussion is ridiculous, so are the comments that all crew are rubbish.

  18. I only used BA once years ago and never again. I booked a trip 2 months ago called up my travel agent gave her the dates and left it with her , when I went to get the tickets I seen it was booked with BA so I canceled the trip.

  19. The water mafia strikes again. Keep up the fight for service and respect since you are the one fueling the whole shebang with your money. I had a similar thing happen on Air Asia where they wanted to sell an overpriced bottled water (and environmentally unfriendly). I finally got a bit of water in a cup so I could take my meds on time after I said it was for my meds. I swear the airlines are in cahoots with the ground concessionaires so that either one or the other will get your money. Some airports do not have working fountains years after Covid-19 hit and they were shut down at that time.

  20. Gary, thank you for confirming my preference for UA over BA for US-UK. FAs on UA domestic first have never refused to bring me something not on the tray when they used a tray for pre-departure beverages. I have never seen a tray used as you described on UA international Business/Polaris. Some people cannot consume champagne or orange juice for medical reasons. I wonder if they would have refused to bring a soda or different juice if you asked for that. I have asked for hot tea pre-departure and that has been honored, though sometimes they warn me I need to finish it before take off. I thought the standard of service for first/business class is the FAs honor customer requests within policy and law that do not adversely affect health/safety or other customers.

  21. What an asshole. They will give you as many bottles of water as you want throughout the flight. Sounds like a clickbait article hyped with faux outrage. Dick.

  22. BA is the worst of the worse among business class travel. I travel Qatar, Emirates, Turkish airlines and all of them are very good, while my last trip was horrible, broken seats, dinner was a cheese sandwich with one slice of tomato and one basil leaf, and they are the most expensive among all other airlines. NEVER BA again

  23. Sounds like a reasonable request to me. In fact, I would have then asked for one of those gallon jugs of spring water like they have at Walmart. Chilled.

  24. An experienced flyer brings his own empty water bottle and fills it airside before embarkation. Thereafter, whether diversity hires on BA or superb staffers on QR, you are hydrated.

    I mean, it’s difficult to bring your own orange juice or champagne through security.

    My complaint is that Deer Park, Dasani etc. are not my favorite water. Another post could comment on preferred water of Perrier, Voss, Gerolstein, San Pellegrino, etc.

    Nonetheless, I do know other expert fliers who refuse the personal water bottle advice.

  25. You aren’t wrong. There are several factors at play here. The flight attendants, dare I say, Stewardesses or Stewards, should offer you whatever you want. You are the customer and if it is in their power they should make it happen. Maybe there is some misconception in the way they communicated it in the moment but I doubt it.
    “May I have some water?”
    Was it:
    “NO! You have a bottle already, we are primarily here for your safety and our union contract ONLY requires us to ask if you want sparkling wine or Orange juice!”
    “Sir we already anticipated that you’ll need some water so it is already next to you, I would be happy to bring you more once we get into the air, enjoy your flight”.

    The reactions you receive on social media are just social media. It has devolved into trolls that are looking for something to be negative about or dress others down in their own judgment of everything that is holy, diverse, or lacks their socialist brainwashing ideas. You are in a tough position with social media. I often warn you to stay away from TikTok for example but you have to create content and grow your online brand so it’s harder to walk away from it and enjoy yourself. There is no justice on social media and it’s a huge time sink. You, of all people, should recognize the time and money lost using social media based on your recent “Over the Brooklyn Bridge” post.

  26. It’s reasonable to ask for water in a premiumbcabin and the flight attendant should deliver it as soon as they have a chance…
    Knowing that BA runs out of water AND/or the flight attendants will disappear after the meal service, never returning to offer drinks again AND will give you the evil eye if you have the audacity to hit the call button to request water, it’s also reasonable to save the bottle for later.
    And no, I don’t think I should bring my own food and water in a premium cabin – I’m paying the airline a small fortune so I don’t have to deal with all that! On Bus/train – yes, I’ll bring it; Economy flight, maybe…
    TATL and US domestic service has been so bad for so long that expectations are so low that this is even a point of discussion!
    On a premium carrier, like SQ, that would never happen. On a post CoVid SQ flight, I asked for a glass of champagne pre departure, the flight attendant said “most certainly” and delivered it a few minutes later, when he had a chance.
    I didn’t find out till later that SQ wasn’t doing ANY pre departure drinks at all as a matter of policy at that time. Not only did he deliver the champagne anyway, he also didn’t give me any indication that I had made a request that was indeed unreasonable, avoiding making me feel bad (which I did when I found out)! THAT is premium cabin service!

  27. Yeah, I’ve gotten the “already have water at your seat” response before, but I’ve never been denied water after explaining that I like to save that for in the air/while sleeping. Indeed, last time, on American transcon F, the FA was so nice about it; after that interaction, she kept my glass topped off for like 1/3 of the flight and then said “I can see you drink a lot of water, here have a 1.5L bottle.” And then brought me more after I finished that.

    +1 @tom – now I hide the pre-stocked one before asking.

  28. Passengers have certain expectations regarding the service on a flight, and it’s entirely reasonable to expect a level of customization. If the crew is offering predeparture beverages, it implies a willingness to accommodate individual preferences, and asking for water falls within that reasonable expectation.

  29. What surprises me must is that people who are such frequent flyers do not seem to be able to figure out workarounds. Most flight crew members of most airlines are polite and attentive. and are responsible for a lot more than serving food and drink.
    Rober C.

  30. So because they ran out last time they’ll run out this time? Dude, recency hias.

    So if they run out of bottles later have them give you a GLASS of water.

    Dude, really?

  31. I am sure many airlines would have been delighted to serve you « only » water! TAROM for example, offers only water, oh, sparkling or still!

  32. You had water, a bottle of water. You were not “denied” water. They crew had pre poured Champagne and Orange Juice. Why should they pour water when they already provided a bottle of water to each seat? This article is an outrageous misrepresentation of what actually occured. You asked for additional water, before you had consumed your bottle of water. Shut up already.

  33. Needy. They were offering certain drinks at that time, and you already had water. If you require that much water, bring a empty bottle to fill after security next time, gallon size would probably be suitable!

  34. I had a much better experience : When drinks were being served, I asked for water. She gave me a glass of water at ambient temperature. I asked for ice. She said that was for passengers drinking liquor or beer only. So, I asked for a can of beer & ice in a separate glass which I got. I returned the beer can to her. I enjoyed my cold glass of water !!!

  35. How old are you Gary? If you need a lot of water, purchase a big bottle in the airport or use a collapsible water bottle from REI and fill it from the water station most airports now have. An airplane is not a restaurant or bar. If people don’t want what they are offering then say no thank you. You had water and could of acted like a grown up and brought your own water. I have to say if the crew has service they are supposed to follow and starts taking custom orders this opens up a whole can of worms. Oh wait you already had a bottle of water that’s correct. You looked like an idiot. They have other duties and they don’t have time to open up the entire galley and delay the flight. Be grateful the airline gives you a glass of crappy Champagne or OJ. Grow up.

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