This Reddit post shows a picture of a disposable cup that is labeled specifically for use by pilots only:

Disposable cup. Photo from Reddit user /u/LosingWeekends.

Is that seriously a thing? If so, why? There's some explanation in that discussion thread about fitting cup holders more tightly, but it doesn't sound like a plausible explanation to me, since the cup holder should be designed to hold the cup properly, not the other way around.

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    $\begingroup$ Sterilized to maintain a sterile cockpit? :) $\endgroup$
    – Sanchises
    Commented Sep 29, 2018 at 18:11

1 Answer 1


The answer is pretty simple...

It is because those cups have matching lids that won't fit the passenger cups. Lids are used on the flight deck to keep the liquid inside from spilling on the (ever increasing) electronics, especially those located in the center console between the pilots (which house the radios in a lot of airplanes).

So some airlines have made a policy of any cup going into the cockpit must have a lid, and these cups specifically have lids.

  • $\begingroup$ See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fate_Is_the_Hunter_(film) from 1964 $\endgroup$
    – DJohnM
    Commented Sep 30, 2018 at 7:04
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    $\begingroup$ I think there's something missing from your answer: I get that lids prevent spillages, but why would mismatched lids help? A passenger cup with a fitting lid would suffice, so why use different ones for the pilots? $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 30, 2018 at 19:13
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    $\begingroup$ @RogerLipscombe Because the passenger cups don't have kids at all... Yes they could just get lids that fit the passenger cups, but the warning also reminds the cabin crew that this cup must have a lid. $\endgroup$
    – Ron Beyer
    Commented Sep 30, 2018 at 20:51
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    $\begingroup$ @RogerLipscombe a more appropriate question would be "why have cups of different sizes for crew and passengers". That could in fact be an interesting one. $\endgroup$
    – jwenting
    Commented Oct 1, 2018 at 5:37
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    $\begingroup$ @jwenting surely that is to accomodate a bracing draft of brandy in the coffee... $\endgroup$
    – Stian
    Commented Oct 1, 2018 at 11:45

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