There is a good reason why we often come down with a bug after we have been on a flight, it is because aircraft are notoriously germ-ridden places and dirty places.

According to TravelMath, a travel-centric website the airlines are getting dirtier and when the website sent a microbiologist to five different airports and onto four flights, where they collected a total of 26 samples.

The samples were then sent for analysis that involved establishing the number of colony-forming units (CFUs) per square inch. CFUs are colonies of bacteria rather than individual bacterium and some of the results that were obtained my cause some rather disturbing reading and have you packing your anti-bacterial wipes for your next flight!


The results of the study suggested that approximately 20% of passengers develop a respiratory infection shortly after their flight.

However, there was some good news, all 26 samples were negative for faecal coliforms like E. coli, which are not only contagious but carry the potential for far more serious infections than a head cold.

Problem Areas

  1. Tray Table

Rather worryingly, the tray table, the very area where we eat our food contained the greatest number of CFUs per square inch – 2,155. To put this in perspective, the average household toilet seat has 172 CFUs per square inch!

  1. Overhead Air Ventilation

The overhead ventilation performed considerably better than the tray table but alarmingly was still worse than your toilet seat scoring 285 CFUs per square inch. This is likely to be one of the main causes of the respiratory problems.

  1. Toilet Flush

The toilet flush managed to beat both the air vent and the tray table but again struggled to compete with your toilet seat scoring 265 CFUs per square inch

  1. Seatbelt

The seatbelt buckle was the fourth most bacteria-ridden area on the plane with 230 CFU’s per square inch which may not be too bad when you consider that passengers are encouraged to wear their safety belt for the entire duration of the flight.




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