Last updated: 03:00 PM ET, Fri September 11 2015

Where's The Dirtiest Place On A Plane?

Airlines & Airports | Rich Thomaselli | September 11, 2015

Where's The Dirtiest Place On A Plane?

Image courtesy of Thinkstock

Airplanes are not exactly designed to be paragons of hygiene and great health, given the cramped quarters of 200 people flying in a fiberglass chute.

It’s more like a giant, flying petri dish.

But if you think the even-more cramped bathrooms on a plane are the dirtiest spot on the aircraft, think again. Oh, it’s up there, all right; it’s just not THE dirtiest.

What is? Well, let’s just say we’d think twice before eating again.

The website sent a microbiologist to take 26 samples from five U.S. airports and four flights by two major unidentified carriers. It was looking for colony-forming units per square inch – CFUs for short, or the amount of bacteria on a surface.

Here are the top – er, bottom? – six according to the findings.

6) Bathroom stall locks: 70 CFU/sq. in. – Sure, you may be washing those hands and drying them off and using the paper towel to handle the stall lock to let yourself out. But, uh, what about going in?

5) Seatbelt buckles: 230 CFU/sq. in. – Well, you don’t have much of a choice there since you have to go into lockdown mode at least twice during the flight.

4) Lavatory flush buttons: 265 CFU/sq. in. – The whole idea of that cramped space and the royal blue water just gives us the heebie-jeebies anyway.

3) Overhead air vents: 285 CFU/sq. in. – You’re opening, you’re closing, you’re turning and adjusting … just another button to play with.

2) Drinking fountain buttons: 1,240 CFU/sq. in. – Helpful hint: Buy bottled before getting on the plane.

1) Tray table: 2,155 CFU/sq. in. – Yuck, but it’s the truth.

"Since this could provide bacteria direct transmission to your mouth, a clear takeaway from this is to eliminate any direct contact your food has with the tray table," according to TravelMath.

Travelmath also noted that bathrooms on planes are cleaned more often, which may explain why they are not higher on the list, but tray tables don’t get nearly as much attention from cleaning crews.


You may use your Facebook account to add a comment, subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your Facebook information, including your name, photo & any other personal data you make public on Facebook will appear with your comment, and may be used on Click here to learn more.

Sandals Resorts: The 5-Star Luxury Included Resorts

Hotels & Resorts