5 of the germiest places on planes you need to watch out for

People have always been concerned about germs when flying on a plane, but with the COVID-19 pandemic still ongoing, many are concerned more now than ever about getting sick from riding on a plane. Surprisingly, now may be the safest time ever to fly – masks must be worn at all times on board, the plane is sanitized after each flight, and people are socially distanced.

But pre-COVID, planes were definitely not cleaned as frequently as they are during the pandemic. When life returns to normal (and eventually, it will), plane cleanliness won’t be like it is now.

And according to new research from Auburn University, antibiotic-resistant bacteria and viruses can live on armrests, window shades, headrests tray tables, toilet handles, and all the other things you touch on a plane.

In fact, a recent study found that if you make contact with an object on a plane you risk infection with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, MRSA, or the E. coli O157:H7 gut bug. This can actually lead to kidney failure.

Therefore, it’s important to know the germiest places on an airplane. Here are some of the grossest, germ-infested places on planes, according to a CBC study.


Surprisingly, this ranked the highest as the dirtiest place on a flight. They carry germs such as hemolytic bacteria and E.coli. It’s also where people rest their heads, so there’s bound to be cold and flu germs as well, since the headrest is in such close proximity to the face.

Seatback pockets

The seat-back pocket is where people have their hands all over the drink menus and rewards credit card information pamphlets. The best way to avoid catching any germs is just to not touch these items. If you really want to glance at the drink menu, make sure to wipe it down with a sanitary wipe or use hand sanitizer immediately afterward.

Bathrooms (for obvious reasons)

There isn’t much explanation as to why a bathroom is one of the grossest places on an airplane.

It’s safe to say that any public bathroom contains a lot of germs. Always wash your hands after leaving a bathroom (please).

Seat belts

Seat belts are another area that people are constantly touching. However, they are unavoidable – everyone needs to wear a seat belt to fly. Just make sure you are taking precautions to stay germ-free before you touch the buckle.

Tray tables

These are gross for a few reasons. The first being, hundreds of strangers are touching them.

”With 2,155 microbes per square inch, the table tray is far dirtier than a typical airplane toilet seat, making it an extremely unsanitary surface to eat your food from,” Microban International noted. “To ensure that your tray table is fresh, use a disinfectant wipe to clean the surface both before and after using it. We would also recommend putting something down (such as a clean tissue) to prevent contact between your food and the tray table.”

Second, this is also where people eat, which can cause spills and germs to easily get onto the tray table. Lastly, people also put random possessions on them, such as a laptop or book. These objects can carry germs, as well. Point being – you don’t know where people or their objects have been.

A general rule of thumb is to always carry disinfecting wipes and to wipe everything in your surrounding area down. Airplanes are dirty places, but there are steps you can take to prevent catching the gross germs on them.