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A budget airline passenger asked for water. He was given a cup of ice and told to wait.

Should airlines be required to give you free water on flights?

Room temperature ice.
Getty Images

Airlines have largely taught customers that they should expect to pay more for amenities like checked bags, a hot meal, and even seat assignments when booking travel. But a recent Facebook post from a passenger who was flying from Singapore to Japan on the budget airline Scoot made the internet rounds when he claimed he was denied a cup of water on board.

According to the passenger, Gene Goh, he asked for a cup of water while his flight this month was delayed. A flight attendant told him the only water available was bottled water for purchase. When he declined to pay and said tap water would be fine, an attendant placed a cup of ice in front of him and told him to wait for it to melt. Goh’s November 15 Facebook post, which includes a picture of a cup of ice, reads: “I hope that there could be some sort of care for passengers, not being unreasonable over here.”

There was a delay in taking off of your flight from singapore to osaka this morning, as of now i am currently still...

Posted by Gene Goh on Thursday, November 15, 2018

If Goh was looking for sympathy, he did not find an overwhelming supply on Facebook. Many commenters chastised him for being cheap, in their view, with one saying, “This should be a compliment for the stewardess whom was creative in serving you.” Another complained: “This guy is so damn cheap, just buy the bottle water, it’s actually better for you! NO airlines allowed to served you tap water in the airplane. Remember people, flying is a privilege, NOT a right! If you can’t afford it, then you shouldn’t be flying and expected everything for free, especially on a budget airlines.”

Some commenters did come to his defense, including one who wrote, “I find it funny that everyone here is indoctrinated into thinking that water should not be given free of charge and that this man is being cheap. You have all been brainwashed fools.”

While some airlines do provide free water and soft drinks, others — like Spirit and Eurowings — charge for bottled water. In the US, planes are required to provide food and water for all passengers only if there is a significant flight delay on the tarmac; otherwise, complimentary water is not a requirement.

The mixed response toward Goh’s story shows a split in attitudes toward flying. Some people are willing to accept a truly budget service for lower ticket prices; others think flights should come with at least basic amenities like water, no matter how much they paid for a ticket. But even for a budget airline, asking a passenger to wait for ice to melt seems a bit extreme, especially because dehydration is a serious health risk when flying.

Goh’s experience is far from the first time an airline has subjected its customers to questionable treatment. Just this October, Primera Air abruptly filed for bankruptcy, leaving ticket-carrying passengers stranded at the airport. And recently, Ryanair was accused of using an algorithm to split up travel companions to make them pay more for a seat change. It seems that no matter how many horror stories make headlines, expectations somehow sink even lower when it comes to air travel.

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