The Dirtiest Place on a Plane? Not What You’d Expect

When we go on a plane, we’re always looking around with a bit of edge at who we are surrounded by. Before long, the sniffling kid comes along, sneezes the whole 8-hour journey, and leaves your ‘romantic weekend’ in absolute disarray as you spend your time in New York sitting on the loo.

While it might not always be so drastic, planes are dirty places. However, most of the time, the dirties parts of a plane ride don’t come from where you would expect. In fact, according to a new consumer watchdog program on Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), “Marketplace”, some of the dirtiest surfaces and locations on a plane are quite a shock.

Indeed, the show found that headrests and the seat pockets are among the grimiest parts of an airplane journey. For all of those who spend the whole journey sitting with your head up against the headrest, don’t panic. You might just need to sit forward a tiny bit more in future!

The episode which disclosed this was shown on October 26th, and instantly raised a lot of debate about the cleanliness of an airplane. Their team took flights between Ottawa and Montreal eighteen times, flying with Porter, WestJet and Air Canada. With over 100 surface samples taken, the results they came back with were pretty staggering.

Airplane seat food tray table .

It was then studied by Karen Warriner, a microbiologist at the University of Guelph. She checked out the samples, and found that yeast and mould were present on the majority of the flights undertaken. Other dirty points on your plane journey include:

  • Seat belts.
  • Tray tables.
  • Washroom handles.

So, uh, keep that in mind next time you happen to be going for a flight. Indeed, the study came to some pretty interesting conclusions.

What did the study find?

  1. 33% of seatbelts – one third – came with mold and yeast on them.
  2. Washroom handles all contained bacteria as well as high aerobic counts.
  3. Seat pockets had significant volumes of coliforms, mold and E. coli.
  4. Tray tables were also high in mold and other forms of bacterial count.
  5. Headrests were dirtiest, with bacteria, E. coli and the highest aerobic count.

Aerobic counts are a form of bacteria which the Food and Drug Administration rates as a measure of microorganism within a specific product.

In the show, staff for the airlines content that there “simply wasn’t enough time” to carry out the full disinfecting of the full aircraft prior to re-usage. That shines an interesting light on the capacity and overworking taking place within the industry. Can more be done to change that? Here’s hoping.

For now, though, it’s interesting to note that many parts of an airline considered to be the grimiest aren’t – it’s always the things you least expect, right?

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