Flight Attendant Refuses Passenger Water, Gives Him Ice and Says “Wait For It to Melt”

United Airlines President Scott Kirby tried several passenger-unfriendly innovations when he was President at US Airways that he ultimately had to roll back like elimination of free water in coach and elimination of elite bonus miles for flights.

The idea – then as now – was to make the airline he was running more like Spirit. Spirit after all famously sells water.

British Airways – once a full service airline – has destroyed their brand with their cuts including their refusal to provide hot water for customers who bring their own tea bags. If anything should be complimentary on BA it’s tea.

It’s the direction much of the airline industry has gone so while I’m sympathetic to flyer Gene Goh I’m not sure he should be surprised that he couldn’t get water on his Scoot flight. He should be grateful they gave him free ice and a free cup (and told him to wait for the ice to melt).

Presumably he could have gone to the lavatory to fill up his cup from the sink, but you don’t want to drink that water. Scoot sells bottled water, but won’t pour complimentary bottled water — just like Spirit.

Scoot is the low cost carrier owned by Singapore Airlines. It has entirely separate branding to avoid tarnishing the Singapore (and even SilkAir) name. What becomes a problem is when Singapore transfers routes from a full service operation over to Scoot.

Many flyers scolded Goh for being too cheap to buy bottled water. I do think in the current world of fees it’s become incumbent upon customers to (1) know what to expect from the airline you’re purchasing tickets from, and (2) come prepared to sustain yourself inflight (which often means bringing your own water even from a ‘full service’ airline rather than relying on flight attendants to provide for your needs).

There are some things I’m stuck relying on an airline for, beyond safe transportation. That includes inflight internet, since my own connectivity doesn’t work in the sky. But I try to travel prepared for most eventualities.

  • I bring an extra pair of underwear in case I’m forced to overnight.
  • I bring my own entertainment to watch.
  • I bring a power brick because I might be flying on a legacy US Airways ‘basket of deplorables’ plane American hasn’t updated yet.
  • And I make sure I have water.

And that’s not even flying Scoot or Spirit. However just because we can be self sufficient as travelers, should we have to? Airlines don’t charge for use of the lavatory (yet), should they charge for water?

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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. “Many flyers” are ridiculous to call this passenger cheap. It’s not the passenger who’s too cheap to pay for water – it’s the airline that’s too cheap to provide this basic amenity.

  2. @Gary — unfortunately, all your preparation will not help you on Scoot. You are flatly prohibited from bringing your own water on board or from consuming it onboard. This is announced frequently and enforced. If you want water on Scoot, you must purchase it.

  3. Next time, just simply ask FA for water to take with your medication (pills; it could be tic tac mint placebo) and see if FA refuses…

  4. @Larry That policy seems like a step too far. Effectively says I’m either paying for overpriced water or dehydrating as I’m being held captive.

    I don’t think airlines have to provide water, but they can’t prohibit access to water otherwise. To those who don’t agree, does price and duration of flight matter? If it’s an 18 hour flight and water is $100, is that permissible? If it’s not you at least accept there are some bounds on the reasonableness of amentities to be provided.

  5. Your headline is mis-leading, it should read “passenger refuses to pay for water, compassionate FA gives him free cup of ice!”
    Scoot and any other LCC is pretty clear that all drink & food onboard is for purchase. I’m sure the FA would have been happy to sell this passenger a bottle of water. She probably wouldn’t have stopped her to drink water from the bathroom faucet, if she wants to..
    But no passenger on an LCC can expect to get free drinks. She wouldn’t expect a free drink on the Singapore MRT! And the FA probably can’t serve the tab water … if you fly LCC to save on the fare, use those savings to buy a water .. or fly SQ and don’t worry about it.

  6. Scoot doesn’t prohibit you from consuming your own water. I’m not sure if it’s disallowed, but it’s certainly not enforced. Scoot can’t possible miss the long queue of passengers at the departure holding area water dispenser.

  7. The water in the restroom is really the same water available everywhere in the plane, so it is really partly psychological that you wouldn’t want to use water from there (but also partly concern over unclean hands having touched the spout).

  8. Seems like the FA actually did the max that she could per her company’s policy (or maybe even a tad more, depending whether FAs are allowed to dispense cups/ice without a purchase). If FAs are allowed to dispense from the tap, though she should have done so – but they may not be, hard to know from the outside.

    @Alvin: Whether it’s consistently enforced or not, Scoot’s T&Cs do prohibit eating/drinking your own stuff on board.

    “Consumption of outside food and beverages is not allowed on board.”

    (see the big “NO OUTSIDE FOOD ALLOWED” on Pg 24)

    Based on testing of onboard “tap” water, I’d avoid drinking it on any airline unless it was an emergency. And I especially wouldn’t do so on any airline that services locations where the local public water supply isn’t safe to drink. But, others may still drink it if they want, so I think airlines should be required to provide free water from the onboard “tap” supply upon the passenger’s request.

    I also wouldn’t have a problem about mandating free water from bulk bottled water containers, either. There’s no material cost impact, as the cost for a drink from one of the big 1.5 litre or so bottles for everyone onboard (and not everyone will even want one), wouldn’t be more than a few pennies per person, max. Then if someone wants their own 500ml bottle, they can pay for that on airlines that charge for non-alcoholic beverages.

  9. How do they (how could they) enforce the ban on onboard consumption of outside food and beverages? I board the plane with a sandwich and a bottle of water in my carry-on. We’re now cruising at 30,000 feet and I take out my sandwich and drink and consume them onboard – what can they do about it at that altitude? I know Singapore is the place where they cane you for chewing gum, but that’s on the ground.

  10. There seems to be a dangerous misconception about the water in the bathrooms on airplanes from some of the posters, like DH.

    the water that comes on board in bottles is potable.

    the water that is stored in the airplanes tanks for washing your hands in the lav sink is NOT potable.

    they are not the same.

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