The One Drink I’d Like To See More Airlines Offer

Filed Under: Advice

I’ve spent the past week largely on dry airlines, which is eye-opening from a product perspective. While I respect that some airlines don’t serve alcoholic drinks due to sincerely held beliefs, it often does come across as a convenient cost cutting mechanism. Why? Because many of these airlines don’t bother putting any effort into their non-alcoholic drink selection.

Sure, I get Saudia isn’t going to serve alcohol, but couldn’t they at least serve brand name water, freshly squeezed juices, espresso-based cappuccinos, etc.? To me that’s why it feels cheap. Heck, on my EgyptAir flight the other day they didn’t even have sparkling water.

That’s one aspect of my recent Royal Brunei flight that really impressed me. Despite being a dry airline, they actually put a lot of effort into their drink selection.


What I was most excited to see was iced coffee. I’m a caffeine addict, and when on the ground and in a warm climate I typically order iced coffee 90% of the time. Best of all, Royal Brunei’s iced coffee was actually really great.


@AirlineFlyer made a point on Twitter that I strongly agree with:

Why can’t more airlines offer proper iced coffee, or ideally even cold brews? I’ve sometimes in the past asked for iced coffee in international first class, and either get told it’s not available, or it turns into an hour-long process of them trying to cool coffee, then pour it over ice, etc.

Iced coffee (and in particular cold brew) is getting more popular, and I’d love to see some airlines actually offer it. No, I don’t suspect we’ll see every airline offering it overnight, but at a minimum you’d think some airlines could add a brand name cold brew to their buy on board menu, or a top airline could offer cold brew in first class.

Heck, on my recent Garuda Indonesia flight I could choose what kind of roast I wanted for my French press coffee, so you’d think them adding a single cold brew to the menu wouldn’t be too much of a stretch.


I’m curious how you guys feel — is my love of cold brew just an obscure preference, or would you like to see airlines add cold brews/legitimate iced coffees to their onboard menus?

  1. I may be wrong, but I get the impression iced coffee is more of an American thing, which is why many of the top international cabins won’t think to offer it

  2. Is that drinks menu from a MEL-BWN flight? If not I’m pleasantly surprised that they would import Bundaberg ginger beer for flights not ex-AUS.

  3. I got the flight attendants proficient at busting out iced americanos for me recently in Etihad apartments. Absolutely delicious and took the sting out of how warm they kept the cabin. But better than iced coffee, I’d love more airlines to carry the hazelnut espresso vodka you find on Alaska!

  4. Yeah, Ben, sorry but it’s an American thing. While we’re on the subject of Americans, I’ll see your iced coffe and raise you a drinkable, passable, POT (pot!) of tea. On any Canadian airline, there is a pot of tea, nicely steeped, from which they pour the beverage into…cups! Rocket science?

    Wasn’t The Boston Tea Party a very very long time ago? Sometimes it feels like it’s a rite of American patriotism to do tea badly. How we foreigners suffer at the indifferent hands of your airlines. I could go on….

    Make Tea Great Again, America!

  5. Iced coffee doesn’t really exist outside the US (since apparently the US is more obsessed with making things — coffee, air — cold than just about anywhere else in the world). For example if you order an “iced coffee” in Australia you’ll most likely get some sort of ice cream-based dessert, if anything.

  6. I recently flew Thai J from SYD-BKK and was excited to try the coffee selection they had as there was a 1 page write-up on each kind in the menu. When I asked the response was “oh, we don’t have those, sorry”. It’s one thing to have a poor drink menu, it’s another to have a drink menu printed without putting the drinks onboard!

  7. I was a barista at THE major multinational coffee chain in college. (Good) ice coffee is NOT just hot coffee poured over ice. It’s brewed at double strength to account for the ice melt. I can’t imagine very many airlines wanting to Brew an extra batch of coffee just for the one or two people who want it.

    That said, cold brew might be possible, but it would have to be brewed on the ground and brought on board by catering. I make cold brew quite often at home now, with a French press. It’s super easy. Again, I doubt many airlines would be willing to through the trouble for one or two customers, even in a premium cabin.

  8. Hi Lucky,

    Yes, I must say that offering coffee to my liking or what I called a ‘thirdwave’ coffee 37,000 ft in the air will definitely blow me away.

    Indonesia is able to offer you the blend to your liking is because the nation itself is a coffee producing country. Hence, Garuda is able to bring that on board. That would also make it affordable for the airline too considering if you are a non-producing nation, you might have to import from elsewhere. They would essentially get what is mostly offered in bulk on board.

  9. Agreed with what other people said, iced coffee is definitely an American thing. For instance in France (where I’m from) I don’t think they would even understand what you mean, especially since when you ask a coffee 90% of the time you’ll get an espresso, unless you’re at Starbucks.

  10. On behalf of all Americans I apologize for our obsession with cold drinks.* 🙂

    Seriously though, I think you all got a little obsessed with the iced coffee part of this discussion. I think initial part of the post is very valid: totally fine if your religion/culture/practice is not to partake in alcohol but if you are serving an international clientele why wouldn’t you put more effort in to better choices or alternatives?

    Perhaps they think without the booze component folks wouldn’t be willing to pay for it?

    * Fun fact, in the 1800’s, before refrigeration, they used to ship huge blocks of ice cut from frozen ponds all the way to the Caribbean so that wealthy folks could enjoy a cool beverage. It became a pretty big business per Wikipedia: “At its peak at the end of the 19th century, the U.S. ice trade employed an estimated 90,000 people in an industry capitalized at $28 million ($660 million in 2010 terms).”

  11. Thank god the British commonwealth drinks tea. I hope you guys don’t ever change.

    American coffee culture is horrible. People drinking their sugar laden desserts from a cup and calling it coffee.

  12. Bundaberg ginger beer?

    Really surprised (and delighted) to see that on Royal Brunei.

    It is…the best drink evar!

  13. Have you tried asking for espresso poured over ice (basically an iced Americano)? I realize it isn’t legit iced coffee (the caffeine is probably lower though it might turn out less bitter) or cold brew, but it makes for passable iced coffee. That is how I make iced coffee at home (I use Cuban coffee and a moka pot). Been doing this since high school when most Starbucks I went to in Miami didn’t have iced coffee on the menu and I got one too many hot coffees poured over ice. They did however get what an iced Americano was.


    Iced coffee is totally an American thing, but no American carriers have it. At least not the real deal. I would LOVE to see it onboard.

  15. Iced coffee and tea would be great, but the fastest (booze-free) way to my heart is a horchata. Agua frescas in general would be a nice addition to the flying deserts.

  16. Airlines have generally shied away from serving iced drinks ever since 2010, when dozens of flights were grounded as a result of pilots being “iced” by out of control bros.

  17. Preach! It always amazes when I ask for ice coffee and I get a blank stare. There were very few times where my request for ice coffee was greeted with “yes sir coming right up.” Turkish & Austrian both do ice coffee well for the most part. On Lufthansa it’s hit or miss.

  18. Iced coffee (or coffee/espresso over ice) is hardly an American thing.

    Austria/Germany has the Eiskaffe, Greece has the Frappe, Italy has the Shakerato, Vietnam has its iced coffees, and most people are familiar with Nescafe canned ice coffees (essentially what the US called those Starbucks Doubleshots).

    Oh, and cold brewing? Japan.

  19. One beverage related thing that bothers me more than anything is when you ask for a drink in business class or whatever that is explicitly on the menu and the flight attendants give you a blank stare.

  20. I don’t know what iced coffee consumptions looks like in America but I am surprised how many people claim it totally is an American only thing. You guys don’t leave home often right?

  21. +1 for Alpha’s and William’s comments.

    With coffee being one of the world’s most popular drinks, a quality iced coffee on airlines would be great. Given how shelf stable cold brew is when bottled, I think that’s a great option that would be feasible if only someone with influence would arrange it. Third wave coffee is along way away though because you need freshly roasted beans, ideally within days of roast. That’s logistically difficult.

  22. Iced coffee in the rest of the world is confusion followed by hot coffee with a separate glass with 2 ice cubes. Lived in Madrid for a year and could only find it at Starbucks.

  23. No self-respecting Italian would serve iced coffee! Not saying is not yummy but perhaps not universally accepted yet. I’m all for better drink options the problem is many airlines will screw up anything that isn’t out of a can or bottle.

  24. I don’t care if the airline doesn’t serve alcohol, coffee, or tea (of any kind), as long as they have Diet Coke (and contrary to popular opinion, Coke Zero is *NOT* Diet Coke).

    I was surprised to see Bundaberg ginger beer AND Milo on that menu – I associate both of those things with Australia 🙂

  25. This is an interesting article and a couple things popped into my mind while I was reading:

    1. Iced tea and coffee are FAR more popular in the US than they are here in Europe (and I suspect a lot of other countries). If you stroll through Italy on a hot summer day, people will still be drinking espressos, cappuccinos and other hot beverages. I suppose the exception are SBUX and their frappuccinos, however I suspect (can’t back this up with facts) that the actual frap brand goes a long way in selling them.
    2. Cold brew is actually far more complex than it may appear. A proper cold brew should be brewed over a c.8+ hour period, therefore it can’t be quickly russled up. This would require some extra logistical hurdles to clear for the airlines, and I suspect the demand wouldn’t be there given that it’s still a relatively niche product.
    3. I certainly agree that ‘dry; airlines should try harder!! Surely getting some freshly squeezed juices and sparkling water on-board can’t be too challenging!

  26. Where does the ice come from? Is it made on the plane using the potable water tank that’s full of bacteria? Or is it brought on before the flight in bags, and therefore limited in supply?

  27. @Alpha and @BenBen

    I wouldn’t really call any of those drinks “iced coffee” or at least “iced coffee” in the sense that Ben means. The European drinks mentioned are typically sweeter and often come with ice cream (more similar to a Frappucino) and Vietnamese iced coffee, while delicious, is also heavily sweetened with sweetened condensed milk. I’ve rarely encountered plain unsweetened black iced coffee on offer outside of the US and Canada unless I’m in a major city that has American chains.

  28. I agree! And I agree with commenters that it isn’t just an american thing. To Alpha’s list I’ll add Singapore and Malaysia. And as for iced coffee on the planes, I wouldn’t be surprised to see it in the future *if* costs go down. I live in a liberal bubble and can buy about 10 kinds of (non-Starbucks) cold brew coffee in cans at most grocery stores.

  29. I get that iced coffee is mostly specific to the US and a few other cultures, but even the US carriers aren’t offering iced coffee, which seems at least a little bit silly, since it’s an easy problem to solve. There are plenty of brands that sell absolutely delicious bottled cold brew, which would be more than sufficient on an airplane. Actually brewing cold brew on the plane is not necessary. Cater each flight with a few bottles and you’re all set.

    My main complaint when it comes to lacking beverages, particularly in premium cabins, is decent beer. So many airlines go to the effort to have good wines in first and business class, but they serve the same garbage beer that’s available in coach. Delta has gotten better about offering some good regionally-based microbrews (even in coach!) but it’s on an extremely limited set of (mostly domestic) flights

  30. Before I discovered this site, I had never before seen the word “cappuccino” uttered so often. And so what if a flight is dry? I’ve flown the world over many times on nothing but water and orange juice, with perhaps a touch of apple juice thrown in.

  31. To the Aussies who’ve been remarking on the presence of Bundaberg on the menu: Yes, the little Aussie brand has cracked the big time. I live in the States and it’s now ubiquitous in supermarkets and bottle shops in LA. Love it.

  32. Thank god there arent some entirely narrow minded/ignorant folk who don’t just think iced coffee is an american thing. Its huge the workd over, particularly in asia. Its also popular in east coast australia, particularly cold brew. Could even buy cold brew from a local off license (bottle-o) in Melbourne

    As for the comments about italian coffee…. think the general rule amongst those in the know is, look at what the italians do to coffee and do the opposite….

  33. I wouldn’t say that Iced Coffee is just an American thing, but definitely less popular in Europe. Japanese have had canned iced coffee years before Americans had iced coffee. But I usually don’t get too excited over iced coffee in a plane, because I’m assuming it’s from a can and loaded with milk and sugar (no thanks).

  34. Order an unsweetened iced tea on any flight and watch most FA’s give you the “really??” look.

    Even got it on a BA flight once…

  35. Coke Light is a drink I enjoy in Europe & Asia (China, at least). Impossible to find in the US.
    I love getting in on flights.

  36. When traveling with a child, it’d be great to have the option of iced coffee, to curb any opportunity for a flailing arm or leg to kick over a hot drink and injure said child or oneself.

  37. @Alpha

    None of the drinks you mention approximate American iced coffee. They all have sugar or condensed milk or, in the case of Eiskaffe, ice cream.

    Also: I love all the commenters claiming that “Americans are so provincial to think iced coffee is just an American thing” when almost 100% of the commenters claiming iced coffee to be an American thing are Europeans calling Ben provincial for thinking it to be international.

  38. Marks and Spencer sell bottles of cold brew, so try flying economy on BA 🙂

    This is not meant to have people asking if they will be selling it online, just playing.

  39. @Nick isn’t Coke Light the same as Diet Coke? When I was growing up in Venezuela all the diet drinks in the US were called “Light.”

  40. @Anna No, Diet Coke and Coca Cola Light are NOT the same. I think it’s the sweetener in them that’s different.
    I’ve only ever seen Diet Coke in the US and U.K. First thing I look for after landing back in the states after a long trip. 🙂

  41. I’m 99% certain that Diet Coke and Coca Cola Light are identical products with different branding, and all of the online research I just did supports that theory.

  42. Dear Lucky,

    Yes, it may be dry, the demand for a good cuppa coffee to a freshly squeezed juice in your First Class, we should be thankful that we do not live in Africa. YES, the argument will be I paid so much and I expect so much in F.

    Be thankful and know that you cannot please everyone including yourself who can sit up front and not behind anymore. The starving Africans would love to just have fresh juice just like you do.

  43. Highly doubt so Greg. If they were to do, this would land them in serious trouble and answerable for being an inhumane airline.

  44. Iced Coffee is hugest not in America but in East Asia. You can’t even order a normal coffee in Japan without them asking if you want it Hot or Iced.

    I know ANA and JAL serve it in premium classes and I believe if you order the upgraded food options in Economy you can have it even in Economy.

  45. There’s a hawker stand in Singapore that freezes coffee into cubes that they use in their iced coffee. It’s soooo goooooddd.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *