Airplanes have a reputation among travellers for being a germ trap with the potential to derail your vacation. But there are other germ-covered surfaces that await you before you even make it to your boarding gate – and they might be home to even more sickness-causing bacteria.
Over the busy holiday season, the US-based insuranceQuotes conducted 18 tests on six different surfaces from three major US airports and airline flights to find out just what germs were lingering there. Swabs from spots like airport water fountains and airplane arm rests were sent to a lab to be tested for the average number of viable bacterial and fungal cells per square inch – or colony-forming units (CFU).
While hitting up a self-check-in kiosk might be the best time-saver at the airport, it also has the most germs of any surface tested. The average screen at the kiosks had 253,857 CFU, according to the study, compared to an average of only 19,881 CFU on an airport water fountain button or 172 CFU on a household toilet seat.
Once you board your flight, there may be fewer germs, but the CFU levels are still high when compared to the average household. The toilet flush button had 95,145 CFU, according to insuranceQuotes, while tray tables had 11,595 and seat belt buckles had 1,116. This is compared to only 361 CFU on an average kitchen countertop. The company notes that while many people think planes are cleaned between flights, there actually isn’t any FAA regulations that call for aircraft cleaning, so it’s up to your airline.
If all this information is freaking you out a bit, the best course of action might just be carrying sanitizer when you travel.