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Flight hygiene is more relevant than ever, and not just because of coronavirus



Anxious about travelling lately? Since the coronavirus started, so am I. The thought of getting on a plane or public transport and sharing the space with people that I don’t know makes me cringe. As it stands there are thousands of cases around the world and more than 400 people have died. This is scary and viruses need to be taken serious – even when they do not make the news.


Image by Caribb on flickr

So I started researching the dirtiest places on an aeroplane and how I can avoid them. From the tray table to the air vent and the seatbelt buckle, aeroplane fittings are covered in bacteria, mould and yeast. Are you ready for more?

Travelling by plane is gross. Picture this, a room full of sweaty people, who probably haven’t brushed their teeth, breathing the same recycled air pumped by the air con, and you can’t even open the windows.

A study by Marketplace found that these are the filthiest parts of the plane (watch out, they’re are places we touch all the time….):

  1.  The headrests are the dirtiest surfaces in the aeroplane, carrying haemolytic bacteria, E.coli and aerobic count.
  2. Followed closely by the seat pockets, with a high aerobic count, mould, coliforms and E.coli
  3. Close behind are the seatbelt buckles, tray tables, arm rests and bathroom door handles and flush button. You can avoid most of these, but the seatbelt buckets is the one you won’t be able to avoid touching.
  4. There is good news about the air vent. According to Travel and Leisure the airflow in a plane is compartmentalized, so you’ll only breathe the same air as people within two to five rows from you, which means you’ll only exchange germs with people near you. Besides the air is combined with outside air before being released through the vents. Does that make you feel better?
  5. Let’s not forget the blankets, pillows and the tap water for tea and coffee. If your blanket isn’t sealed in plastic, you never know who used it before you – perhaps they even sneezed in it. Cabin crew use tap water to make tea and coffee and in a plane, water is stored in tanks and passes through pipes that are not constantly cleaned.
These places all have something in common. They are almost never cleaned. In between flights, the cabin crew picks up the trash and wipes down any fluids or stains, but what about the rest? With growing numbers of flights and quick turn-around at the airport, there is simply not enough time for a deep clean.
Does it feel overwhelming? Do you feel like you need to wash your hands or use a sanitiser every time you touch something on the plane? Well, you really do have to, if you want to keep germs to a minimum. Planes are public places and they need to be treated as such.

Safe flight! I’ll be looking at hotel rooms next.

If this has put you off flying, it might not be a bad thing – for the planet as well as your health! Find out how to travel more sustainably and avoid germ-infested aeroplanes completely.