Feeling sick after a vacation is pretty much a given, especially if you spent any part of that trip on airplanes and in airports. It could be due to airborne germs, or briefly pausing your healthier routines. Or, as a recent study shows, it could be because of the surfaces you touch in transit.
According to InsuranceQuotes.com, the dirtiest places in an airport are the self check-in kiosks (you know, the ones that pretty much every traveler uses these days). In fact, they have more than 1,475 times the amount of bacteria than your toilet seat at home.
The check-in screens are the dirtiest spots but they certainly aren’t the only germ-infested surfaces in an airport. Gate bench armrests and water fountain buttons came in second and third place.
Airplanes are slightly cleaner than airports. Toilet flush buttons are the dirtiest surface in the skies. Tray tables follow, then seatbelt buckles.
According to a 2017 report by Thrillist, the FAA does not regulate how often—or how thoroughly—airlines have to sanitize their planes. So it’s up to the carriers to decide for themselves, and they tend to err on the side of saving time and money, rather than making planes sparkle for passengers.
Cleaning crews will typically only remove trash and wipe down lavatories between flights, meaning your tray table and armrests are left with whatever germs the previous passenger left behind (those surfaces usually get cleaned during overnight stops).
As for the deep cleanings, when seats are shampooed and every surface is sanitized? Those only occur about once a month—at best.
If you’re a fan of self check-in kiosks, consider washing or sanitizing your hands after tapping the screen a dozen times. Once you’re on the plane, think twice before eating any food that has directly touched your tray table.
Plus, if all goes according to plan, you may soon find yourself on some seriously squeaky clean airplane cabins, courtesy of technology. Airbus is exploring antimicrobial technology that some day could be injected into everything from tray tables and seat covers to touch screens and galley areas.
In the spring of 2016, Boeing announced a prototype for a self-sanitizing restroom that uses ultraviolet light to kill 99.99 percent of germs. And some Airbus bathrooms currently feature antimicrobial technology that, when injected into surfaces, eliminates nearly 100 percent of viruses and pathogens.
As for now? We suggest stocking up on as many 3-ounce bottles of hand sanitizer as humanly possible.
– Condé Nast Traveler