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Articles - Aviation

The Germiest Surfaces in Air Travel

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Most flyers know the air travel experience can get downright dirty, literally. Just think about it - every day, millions of passengers from every far-flung region of the globe packed into flying cans not much longer than an Olympic pool and passing through airports brimming with even more people. It’s enough to make you reach for the surgical mask and a sizeable squirt of hand sanitizer (which we hope you’re carrying with you).

But throughout the air travel experience, where are the germiest places?

US-based InsuranceQuotes carried out 18 tests across six surfaces in three major American airports and flights to uncover exactly that.

Measuring the average number of viable bacteria and fungal cells per square inch, and using colony-forming units (CFU) as its barometer, the study found self check-in kiosks to be the dirtiest part of a normal air travel experience, with the standard check-in screen containing 253,857 CFU. Now there's a reason to opt for a traditional check in.

Germinators: the world’s cleanest airlines revealed

The next germiest point during air travel is where you’d expect to find it – in the aircraft bathroom, on the flush button to be precise. Nobody enjoys using a plane lavatory, but with an average 95,145 CFU, you might think twice about placing your fingers directly onto that scary flush button next time.

Airport gate seat armrests (that’s right, where you might lay your head during long layovers), though much further down the scum scale, were found to be the next germiest surfaces, with a score of 21630 CFU, while bubbler buttons were also deemed dirty at 19,181 CFU.

Often reported as one of the germiest points on an aircraft, the tray table came in with a score of 11,595 CFU, while seat belt buckles were the least germy surface with 1,116 CFU.

To put all of this into perspective, regular household kitchen countertops have 361 CFU, while home toilet seats have 172 CFU.

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