Average Flight Grime: The Dirtiest Places On A Plane

Photo: David Crespo / Getty Images.
Obviously we're under no illusion that a plane seat is the cleanest place to spend a couple of hours – though thankfully that horror story involving in-flight bed bugs seems to have been a one-off.
But new research by Canadian TV show Marketplace has revealed the grim reality of what planes can actually play host to – namely, various types of bacteria, mould and yeast.
After analysing more than 100 samples collected on 18 domestic Canadian flights operated by three local airlines (Air Canada, WestJet and Porter), scientists found that the headrest tends to be the most contaminated place on a plane.
E. coli bacteria was even found in some samples collected from headrests.
Microbiologist Jason Tetro told the TV programme: "I was shocked. Honestly, I have looked at planes, and I travel so much on planes, I'm aware of so many of the different places [where germs could be found]. But then I saw what you showed me with the headrest. And even I, the germ guy, went 'ew.'"
Seat pockets were found to be the second-most contaminated spot, containing even more germs than the plane's washroom door handles.
Though tray tables were generally less contaminated, scientists said the level of mould found in some samples suggested they hadn't been properly cleaned in some time.
Scientists also found yeast, mould and high counts of bacteria on plane blankets that had been given to customers in cellophane wrappers.
Then again, perhaps the results aren't too surprising. When Refinery29 asked an anonymous flight attendant to describe the most unpleasant thing she'd dealt with at work, she replied: "Clearing up vomit (or being handed bags of it), picking up soiled nappies – that kind of thing."
So, while wearing a shower cap on your next flight is probably a bit extreme, being aware of a plane's germ hotspots is certainly no bad thing. And it's probably wise to add hand sanitiser to the list of essentials for your next long-haul flight.

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