All entrepreneurs/business travelers know airlines are far from perfect and that they have certainly gotten themselves into their fair share of hot water recently. Troubling behavior from airline employees gets far more press than heroic acts, which doesn’t help. A recent study won’t help the industry’s reputation either.
But before you go casting stones, know that there’s more to this story than meets the eye.
Those samples were then analyzed by microbiologists at the University of Guelph. What did the results show?
Hold on to your air-sickness bag.
On the majority of flights, on almost half of all the swabbed surfaces, scientists found harmful levels of yeast or mold (could cause infections). They even found mold on some blankets (which come in supposedly sealed bags). Other pathogens, including E. coli, were also found. For those of you playing Barf-Bag-Bingo at home, the presence of E. coli means the presence of fecal matter, which means the possibility of resulting intestinal infections, diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal pain.
How on earth?
Dirty diapers–stuffed in the seat pocket. Which is where airline attendants who were part of the study said they’ve also found used tampons, loose condoms, and old sandwiches.
Now, before you write a letter of outrage to your airline of (former) choice, know this. Airline attendants do the best they can to clean planes in between takeoffs, but they typically have only 15 minutes to turn a plane around. And they can’t use proper cleaning fluids, which are a flight hazard–it’s often just water and napkins.
The real culprit is your fellow traveler. Dirty diapers in the seat back? Are you kidding me? Hardly commendable airplane behavior.
So, since the airlines are doing their best and you can’t control your disgusting travel counterparts, you’ve got to take it into your own hands.
Here are the five filthiest surfaces to be wary of (No. 1 being the dirtiest) and what to do about them.
It surprised me that the headrest was the worst of the worst. As is the case for all five surfaces, microbiologist Jason Tetro (even he said “Eww” at the findings) says wipe it down with anti-bacterial wipes you will now have tucked in your carry-on bag. Thirty seconds of wiping should do the trick.
2. Seat pocket
Very high levels of mold were found here. It makes sense–dark areas that get crammed with all kinds of nasty. I used to tuck my laptop or smartphone in there. Never. Again. Follow my lead.
3. Restroom handle
OK, no surprise here. There’s nothing restful about this tiny, gross location. Bring an anti-bac wipe with you when you visit. And give your flight attendant an empathetic hug on the way.
4. Tray table
Breathe easy here (not really though) because only one-third of seat belts tested had potentially harmful contaminants. Say it with me now–blast it with anti-bac!
On top of wiping and avoidance strategies for all of these surfaces, microbiologist Tetro also says carry hand-sanitizer and use it frequently. Fifteen seconds of massaging it in will do the trick.
All of this unpleasantness brings up an interesting question. We all hate flight delays. It takes long enough to get from A to B as is. But would you accept fewer flight options and perhaps more delays in exchange for a more thorough, sanitizing cleaning after every flight?
Respond to this article and speak up, while trying to keep your lunch down.