Window seats and seat headrests are the dirtiest places on a plane according to study

travel 16/01/2020

It’s pretty common knowledge that every time you board a plane you run a pretty big risk of getting sick - such a public space with such a high turnover of people is always going to be a good breeding ground for bacteria and germs. And unfortunately they aren’t cleaned as thoroughly or as often as they should be. 

It turns out that not everywhere in the plane is as dirty as the rest, and where you choose to sit can really affect your exposure to germs. 

In a study conducted by Marketplace, researchers took 19 short-haul flights between Ottowa and Montreal at different times throughout the day and swabbed multiple areas to test for bacteria. During each flight the researcher swabbed the seatbelt, tray table, headrest, seat pocket, and the toilet door handle. 

Of the 100 samples taken and tested at the University of Guelph, almost all swabs had high enough levels of germs such as yeast and mould to make a person sick, but the headrest was the worst of all. 

The headrest and seat pocket tested positive for E. coli, a bacteria found in human and animal intestines, which suggested fecal contamination in those areas. E. coli can cause food poisoning, gastrointestinal infection, cystitis and other illnesses - so best to keep your contact with these areas to a minimum. 

Even worse though, it turns out the seat with the best view in the house is actually the dirtiest. In a story published by The Sun a passenger filmed herself as she wiped down plane seats with alcohol cleaning wipes, one for each the aisle, middle and window seats. Of the three wipes, the window seat came away with the blackest dirt and grime. It’s thought that the aisle seat is in fact the cleanest, because it’s easier to access and therefore cleaned more often. 

So where will you be requesting to sit next time you fly? We know we’ll likely be asking for the aisle...