Thanks to the emergence of low-cost airlines and their large offer of cheap flights, air travel is no longer exclusive to the upper-middle class and above. In Europe, for example, you can find international flight tickets for as cheap as 10€. That’s right.
Sometimes, you can go from Lisbon to Paris for about 9,99€. That is less than 11$. It might sound ridiculous, but companies such as Ryanair or Easyjet often make incredible promotions, especially during the low season months. That is partly why today there are millions of air passengers every day and the same planes fly multiple times.
Plane travel can either be an ordinary, exciting, or terrifying experience. It all depends on the personality of the traveler and the frequency with which he or she uses this means of transportation.
But as new studies about hygiene in commercial aircraft come out, one thing becomes clear: everyone should be careful when boarding a plane. Even if you are not a germaphobe, after reading this article you will certainly want to board a plane with a hand sanitizer or antimicrobial wipes in your carry-on luggage.
These are the spots you shouldn’t touch on a plane!
1. Tray tables
By reviewing the evidence gathered by various analysis we can conclude that plane tray tables are the dirtiest spots inside a plane cabin by a good margin. A 2007 study found that four out of six tray tables contained MRSA and nano viruses.
More recently, Travelmath’s research found 2,155 colony-forming-units of bacteria per square inch. That really is a lot. But what is the reason behind such high numbers?
Well, plane tray tables are made from a textured and porous plastic to prevent your food and beverages from falling. Bacteria love plastic and that specific type of plastic allows them to grow even more. Not to mention that most airlines only wash them about once per day.
To make matters worse, the food crumbs and drops of soda that fall on the tray tables make it an even more appetizing place for bacteria. Next time you are on a plane don’t put your chips or peanuts directly on the table.
2. Air vents
You should only adjust the air vents on the panel above your head once or twice during the entire flight. They contain an average of 285 colony-forming-units of bacteria per square inch. Although this number is much lower than the one registered at the tray tables, it is still the second-highest observed by the Travelmath’s research team.
As expected, the bathroom cabin is among the dirtiest places inside a plane. There are so many specific objects where bacteria and dirt accumulate that it is worth analyzing them individually.
Lavatory faucet handles: there’s a reason why public transportation such as trains and some planes started using a foot pedal to turn on the tap: 30% of faucet handles analyzed in a 2007 study contained the E. coli bacteria.
Toilet seat: people avoid touching public toilet seats at all costs as fecal bacteria, E. coli, and other types of bacteria are often found there. You should really keep that behavior inside a plane.
Flush button: the flush button is actually the dirtiest spot inside the bathroom cabinet with about 264 colony-forming-units of bacteria per square inch.
You might be surprised by the fact that flush buttons are apparently much cleaner than tray tables. But this can easily be explained by the fact that the bathroom is the most regularly cleaned and sanitized place inside the plane.
Microbes also don’t attach with such ease to the materials and textures of the bathroom’s objects. However, you should still avoid touching that surface.
Door handle: inside door handles in public bathrooms are disgusting, largely because of people who don’t wash their hands after going to the toilet.
That is why you should always wash your hands properly with antibacterial soap (preferably) and use your elbow to open the door – touching the door handle after washing your hands will defeat the whole purpose of hand washing.
4. Seat belts and armrests
The fabric used in the seat belts is very porous, so microbes can easily get inside and comfortably live there. Since during the flight you take off the belt and put it back on several times, these microbes can easily enter your organism.
One the other hand, researchers found that E. coli bacteria can survive in airplane armrests for more than 4 days. That’s significantly more than other surfaces such as tray tables or flush buttons.
5. Windows shades
The window seat is most people’s favorite. It offers great views (especially during take-off and landing) and a place to lean on if you want to rest a bit.
However, the materials used in window shades are very attractive for bacterias such as the MRSA. Remember this the next time you think about leaning your cheeks against the window shades to take a quick nap.
6. Blankets and pillows
Most airline companies offer blankets and pillows to their passengers as an amenity. They are placed freshly washed on the plane every morning. That’s great. However, an airplane performs several flights throughout the day, taking hundreds of different passengers to their destinations. Between flights, those blankets and pillows are simply re-folded and re-used. If you don’t want to get another person’s germs, you might as well take your own blanket and pillow with you.
Ideally, you shouldn’t touch any of these things on a plane. But that is almost impossible. So, we just recommend that you refrain from touching your nose, eyes, and mouth with your hands until you can properly wash them since those are the three main points of entrance for most viruses and bacteria. That is proven to be a very effective way to stay healthy. This should be more than enough to keep you safe. So, there’s no need to use a surgical mask and scare all the other passengers.