This blog post was updated on October 18, 2018.
Travel can be a germy experience, especially on board all of those flights. With recycled air and a steady stream of passengers, travelers are often exposed not just to new places, people and cultures but also their fair share of bacteria.
A new study by website Travelmath.com has found airplanes and many of surface on board to be harboring a great deal of bacteria. Coming as no surprise, the study found the dirtiest spots on an airplane to be right in front of a passenger’s nose — the tray tables.
Travelmath sent a microbiologist to five airports and four flights to come up with the result. The dirtiest spots on the plane proved to be the tray tables, being 195 percent more likely to contain bacteria than the average cellphone. Tray tables showed 2,155 colony forming units per square inch of bacteria.
Following tray tables, the study revealed the overhead air vents passengers frequently touch to be quite germy, boasting 285 colony forming units per square inch of bacteria. Lavatory flush buttons followed with 265 colony-forming units per square inch and seatbelt buckles lent 230 colony-forming units per square inch.
Air travelers don’t just have to worry about catching a bug on the airplane. Travelmath’s data also looked at airport surfaces. Drinking fountain buttons held 1,240 colony-forming units per square inch. Bathroom stall locks also reported 70 colony-forming units per square inch.
According to CNN, the Travelmath study did report some good news about airport and airplane surfaces. All of the samples gathered by the microbiologist came back negative for fecal coliforms such as E. coli.
The website did explain why the tray tables on airplanes could be so germy. These surfaces often aren’t cleaned in between flights as airline staff lacks the time to properly scrub them down. In order to avoid catching a bug on an airplane, it is best to always pack hand-sanitizing wipes and make certain food you eat doesn’t come into direct contact with the tray table.
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