They might look like it, but aircraft are not as clean as everyone thinks. There are a few factors discovered by scientists to make pilots, cabin crew and passengers susceptible to colds and infections when flying, along with some tips to avoid them.
Cleaning of cabin windows, disposing of litter and newspapers, sterilising sinks, ovens and working surfaces, wiping the dining tables - are some of “on request” cleaning activities required for aircraft interior cleaning. “To clean, we need 10 to 15 minutes” said Sameer Yousef, a lead cabin cleaner for ABM aircraft cleaning company, “but they give us 7 or 6, or even less time for quick turns”. On average, his team cleans everything from the galley, floor, lavatories, windows on more than a dozen planes every workday.
Worse news is that airlines rarely vacuum or change cloth-covered seats as much as you think. Some research has found that back seats and handrails are the most bacteria-laden places on aeroplanes. To remove these harmful bacteria, wipe everything around your chair. There is no guarantee that they are carefully cleaned.
Allision Hope, a former airline worker, revealed: “Passengers often use the trays as their own private nappy changing tables, and sadly, they are cleaned far less than you would be comforted to know”. She advises to never eat the meals, unless they “come in sealed bags”, and wipe down the fold down tray which could be covered in very harmful germs.
The air on the plane is usually quite dry, with humidity at only 20% (compared to 30% at home). Dry air will make the mucus in your nose – something that protects you from viruses and bacteria – become thicker, making you more susceptible to infection. So, bring a bottle of water to keep your nasal cavity fully moist. For safety, use dry hand sanitizer, even after you have washed your hands from the taps.
Experts also advise some other ways to avoid bacteria. For example: Don’t walk around barefoot on planes, as the carpets could harbour bacteria; or bring your own blanket – the one you are given might have been used by several other infected passengers. Especially, wipe your luggage! It has been handled by a lot of people on your flights!