. . (egwipwipesNHiiGerms are everywhere – especially on planes. On top of that, we’re more susceptible to getting sick on planes because the dry cabin air affects our mucus, which is our immune system’s front line of defense. (According to the World Health Organization, that’s because “the cabin air humidity is under 20%, whereas home humidity is generally over 30%”). This begs the questions: how dirty are airplanes and should you take personal hygiene to the next level on your next flight?
This is especially critical during the COVID-19 pandemic. The CDC has recommended to stay home to slow the spread of the disease. If you must leave your house, you should practice social distancing by keeping at least 6 feet from other people. Unfortunately, for those who must travel, social distancing on a plane is not possible. Whilst airlines are taking additional measures to keep aircrafts cleaner than usual, it’s not a bad idea to take airplane hygiene during COVID-19 to the next level. 


How often are airplanes sanitized?

Between flights, there are very limited cleanings usually because the airplane cleaning crews don’t have enough time between two flights to clean all the surfaces. It’s not a thorough cleaning; lavatories are typically cleaned and passenger trash removed and that’s about it – tray tables are not wiped down. An additional cleaning usually takes place overnight when most airplanes are on the ground, which can include vacuuming the carpet and wiping down tray tables. 
More thorough “deep interior cleanings” happen every couple of weeks – every 6 weeks to a month according to CNN travel, where ceilings are cleaned and carpets shampooed.


How clean is the airplane air? 

Airplanes are equipped with air circulation systems similar to those found in hospitals, which use high-efficiency filters, called HEPA air filters, to circulate the air and remove airborne particles. HEPA air filters extract more than 99.999% of even the tiniest viruses, as small as 0.01 micrometers. The air circulation system blends fresh outside air that is sterilized with a high-temperature compressor and ozone purifier with existing cabin air that has been recirculated through industrial-grade HEPA filters, according to Delta airlines


What are the dirties parts of an airplane?

From a bacterial standpoint, anything with frequent usage that doesn’t receive regular cleaning is dirty. 

  • Tray table: Studies found that table tray tables have extremely high levels of bacteria including cold viruses, human parainfluenza viruses, norovirus (which can cause diarrhea and vomiting) and the superbug MRSA, which causes skin infections.
  • Air vent above each seat: Studies found that they have more bacteria than on the plane toilet flush buttons
  • Seatbelt buckle: every passenger in your seat in a prior flight has had their hands all over it
  • Restroom: flush handle, toilet seat and sink
  • Seat back pocket: passengers put their trash, used tissue, leftover foods and so on in the seat back pocket. Studies found that the bacteria can live up to 7 days on the cloth.
  • TV screen: touch screens mean every passenger before you has put their fingers all over the screen
  • Buttons: such as a tv remote, light button, seat recliner button 
  • Aisle headrest

The bad news is germs are everywhere on airplanes. The good news is that a few simple disinfectant wipes and personal hygienic moves can make the world of a difference between catching a bacterial or viral infection or not on your next flight.
Here is a step-by-step health guide with essential airplane hygiene practices you should implement to minimize your risk of exposure to germs on planes.

Where is it best to seat on an airplane to avoid contagion?

While the aisle seat lets you get up anytime, it’s also the most at risk seat due to the proximity to more passengers. The foot traffic means you have greater chance to get in contact with communicable viruses – especially as most passengers are going or coming back from the bathroom carrying with them lots of bacteria and putting their hands on the aisle headrest to help them walk through

How should you properly disinfect your airplane seat?

  • Bring a pack of antibacterial wipes with you on the plane, it’s allowed.
  • Use tour antibacterial wipes as soon as you arrive to clean your seat. Disinfect all surfaces listed above, which include your tray table, air vent, seatbelt buckle, tv screen, seat arm rest, seat back pocket, tv remote, light button, and seat recliner button
  • Keep the surfaces visibly wet from 30 seconds to 4 minutes, that’s when the germ killing is happening so don’t wipe it off too quickly. Read the instructions on your wipes to know how long you should wait. 
  • Wipe all the surfaces before you clean your hands. Otherwise, if you clean your hands but touch a bacteria infested surface, you’re putting yourself at risk. 

Airplane Hygiene Do’s and Don’t’s: How can you avoid germs on airplanes?

  • Seat at the window seat
  • Wipe down your seat and all the surfaces around your seat as soon as you arrive on the plane 
  • If you cant wipe down your seat because its cloth, put down your personal blanket on the seat. There are also personal seat covers that you can buy if you want to be really cautious
  • Keep all your food on your plate or wrapper to keep it from touching the tray table 
  • Use hand sanitizer regularly. Because bathrooms have a lot of bacteria and sinks are small with little water running, it might be best to use hand sanitizer than to go to the bathroom to wash your hands. If you need to wash your hands, make sure to wash them for at least 20 seconds, use your nails to give your hands a gentle scratch and clean the back of your nails, especially if they’re long. 
  • Keep your items in your personal item bag and carry on luggage to avoid putting them on the tray table or seat pocket. 
  • Wear a sweater with a hoodie and a scarf to avoid resting your head and face directly on the head rest
  • Bring your own travel pillow and blanket. The airline’s pillows and blankets get washed but it’s uncertain how often and how they get washed. Lining is changed but the pillow may not get washed. A plastic wrap does not necessarily mean the pillow or blanket have been thoroughly cleaned. 
  • Put your pillow and blanket in a bag and wash the bag, pillow and blanket after each flight
  • Wash all of your clothes and wipe down all your belongings such as your phone, laptop and passport, as soon as you get home from a flight. Between the germs you’re exposed to on the airplane, public transport, taxi, Lyft or Uber, there’s a good chance you’re bringing back with you some bacteria.
  • Do not touch tour face, especially your eyes, nose and mouth. I know this is difficult as we touch our face 15 times per hour unconsciously. Wear a scarf over your face to try to limit touching surfaces and then touching your face.
  • Do not use the seat back pocket, instead keep all your items in your purse or backpack
  • Do not drink tea or coffee or any other warm beverages. That’s because the pipes of the kettles are rarely cleaned. Airlines are only required to disinfect and flush water tanks 4 times a year
  • Do not hang your pillow to the outside of your personal item or carry on luggage to avoid picking up germs. Do not put it directly in the bin to go through security, on your cart, are on the floor.

What should you bring in your airplane sanitizing kit?

While the aisle seat lets you get up anytime, it’s also the most at risk seat due to the proximity to more passengers. The foot traffic means you have greater chance to get in contact with communicable viruses – especially as most passengers are going or coming back from the bathroom carrying with them lots of bacteria and putting their hands on the aisle headrest to help them walk through.

  • Disinfectant wipes: Get non-scented airplane sanitation wipes as scented ones can have really strong scents. You can also get regular wipes for disinfecting surfaces as well as hand wipes
  • Hand sanitizer that contains at least 60$% alcohol
  • Your own pillow
  • Your own blanket 
  • A sweater with a hoodie
  • A scarf to cover your face
  • A fanny pack or a biodegradable or recyclable disposable bag to avoid using the seat pocket in front of you
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