Traveling the world in an airplane used to give passengers a sense of adventure, prestige, and wonder. Now though, most airport travelers just want to get through the process with some of their dignity intact. To make matters worse, the surprisingly gross things about airplanes could make you long for cross-country car rides. Let's face it: getting around in a passenger plane is not for the faint of heart.
Sure, no one expects the cabin to be as sterile as an operating room. It's a tiny space filled with people who cannot leave, so it's bound to get a little rank from time to time. That said, some of the true facts about plane travel could make the chillest person bathe in a tub of hand sanitizer. Some gnarly bugs can hang out in an airplane cabin for days on end, and the most germ-filled spot on the plane is likely just a few inches away from your hand.
Germs aside, there are some other facts about flight that may give you a moment of pause. For instance, not every passenger is in the realm of the living, so to speak. What's worse, your fellow passengers may decide to do some private hygiene upkeep at 39,000 feet — right beside your chair. With joys like these, you might hop a bus instead.
The Sky Germs
Planes are basically flying tubes of nastiness: this isn't news. But as noted on the website for TIME magazine, intense bugs such as MRSA and E. coli 0157 have been detected in airplane cabins. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a stubborn strain of staph bacteria that does not respond to many antibiotics, whereas E. coli O157 bacteria can result in severe abdominal distress, according to the Mayo Clinic. Yikes.
The Seat Pockets
Lest you think the airplane bathroom harbors all the germs, it's the surfaces around you that may be the most yucky. The seat-back pocket, of all places, may have more germs than a toilet handle, according to Live Science. Maybe find some other place to stow your tablet?
Sure, the state of airline food has given comedians material for decades. It isn't anyone's favorite meal. But according to the website for ABC News, a company that produces food products for many airlines had reported infestations of ants, flies, and roaches. And I thought the idea of snakes on a plane was scary.
OK, so no one considers an airplane bathroom the beacon of all comforts and cleanliness. But as noted by Conde Nast Traveler, there aren't any laws saying airplane bathrooms must be cleaned regularly. The best you can do is hope your particular airline values a healthy dose of disinfectant on the regular.