Just like traveling in any public transport, airplanes also warrant some etiquettes and protocols to make everyone’s flight a bit more bearable. While most of these rules are unsaid and unwritten, you and everyone around you will probably be better off applying them out of common decency.
The floors have seen blood, vomit and all sorts of food being split on them, so walking barefoot is certainly not a good idea. As Linda Ferguson, a flight attendant for 24 years revealed,
“We see people walking from their seats into the bathrooms all the time barefoot and we cringe because those floors are full of germs. Never walk barefoot into the bathroom or the galley area because sometimes we drop glasses and there could be sharp glass there, too.”
Food and eatables on most of the airplanes are below par, and we all know that from first-hand experience. According to an EPA study in 2004, out of 327 aircraft’s water supplies, only 15% passed health standards. Although the standards have risen after the creation of the EPA’s Aircraft Drinking Rule Act in 2009, most of the planes don’t serve tap drinking water, but they do make ice cubes from that.
“Water tanks on an airplane are old and they’ve tested them and bacteria is in those tanks,” said Ferguson. “I would definitely drink bottled water—that’s why they board tons of bottles on an airplane.”
Ever heard of the “economy class syndrome”? Well, it’s a disease medically known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT) where a blood clot forms in your legs due to lack of physical activity at elevated heights. The solution, try to walk around the aisle for a few minutes or simply stretch to prevent it. Also, avoid tight clothing that cuts off circulation while in flight.
“The most important thing is to try to move around and move your legs at least once every hour,” said Catherine Sonquist Forest, MD, a primary care doctor at Stanford University Health Care. “If you can’t get up, you can do exercises in your seat by lifting alternate knees up to your chest and twisting in your chair from side to side.”
Always opt for glasses since the dry air in the plane cabin can lead to irritation to your eyes. Also, if you like to snooze off in the plane, contacts not made for overnight wear can cause irritation.
The vents are made to cool you off, but they are also important to blow away any airborne germs before they get to you. So if you are feeling chilly, it’s best to throw on a sweater rather than turning the air vents off.
The tray tables are notoriously dirty, and for a good reason too! They don’t get sterilized very often, and according to Ferguson, they are only wiped once per day when the plane goes into an overnight service. She added,
“During flights, I’ve seen parents changing babies on top of tray tables. I’ve seen people put their bare feet on top of tray tables.”
A study found that airplane tray has an average of 2,155 colony-forming units of bacteria per square inch, which in almost ten time the 265 units on the lavatory flush button. So better skip on the cookie if it falls off your plate onto the tray!
Blankets and pillows are also not cleaned until the end of the day, so they are the perfect place for harboring lice and germs.
“I see people wrap their feet in the blankets, I see people sneeze in the blankets,” Ferguson adds.
Airplane cabins have low humidity since the air is simulated as the highest altitude humans can breathe at, which is between 6,000 and 8,000 feet. So having a glass or two every 20 minutes is a good idea.
“For every leg of flight, each flight attendant will try to drink a full 16 oz. of water,” said Ferguson. “That’s the most important. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.”
That goes without saying! Just like public washrooms, the airplane bathroom is also a super germ hideout. It’s best to use paper towels to protect direct contact, and use a towel to press the flush button and open the door.
“When you go to the bathroom, the right thing to do is always wash your hands, dry your hands with a towel, and then use the towel to turn off the water and even open up the door,” says Dr. Forest. “You don’t want to not flush the toilet, everyone should flush the toilet, but wash your hands with soapy water and use a towel.”
Germs, germs everywhere! Who knows how many people have breathed, sneezed and coughed against that window that you now doze off against?
“I see plenty of people carry Lysol wipes with them that will wipe the area around their seat,” said Ferguson.” If there was a backlight and they could light up a plane with all the germs, I think it would petrify everybody. My rule of thumb, and I never get sick, is I never put my hands in my mouth or near my face.”