Some studies have pointed to the plane tray table as the germiest part of the air travel experience; other data claims it’s the self check-in kiosk at airports, while at least one study singled out the trays onto which we empty our belongings at security.
But the germiest place might actually be where we least want it to be: where we lay our head.
CBC’s Marketplace took over 100 samples on 18 short-haul flights across Canada, analyzing mould, staph and other nasty pathogens and found the most contaminated surface on the plane to be the headrest.
Keith Warriner, a microbiologist at the University of Guelph, where the swabs were examined, said the most concerning finding was the E.coli bacteria - which indicates fecal contamination - found on the headrest and seat pocket.
"We've got to try and think how would fecal contamination get inside [the seat pocket]," said Warriner.
Connor Remus, a former employee of Canadian regional carrier Porter, said he had found all sorts of nasties in the seat pockets.
"Everything goes in there; everything from the paper-thin vomit bags, to used wrappers.... I found used tampons in seat pockets before," he remarked.
Among the other surfaces to be swabbed in the study were the tray table, seatbelt and washroom handle.
Cabin crew interviewed by CBC suggested that there was simply not enough time to turn a plane around as well as disinfect everything.
"It definitely was not a huge priority. And when it was a priority, it wasn't necessarily for cleanliness, it was for an esthetic purpose," Mr Remus said.
And that’s why you should always travel with hand sanitizer, especially when you have little (and nosy) kiddies with you. And why you should wipe even the headrest down.
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