Lonely Planet Writer

What experts say you should do to avoid germs on a flight

Don’t want to pick up a bug on your next flight? Book a window seat and stay seated.

You can take measures to stay healthy on a flight. Image by martin-dm/Getty Images

Despite airplanes having a reputation as a great place to pick up germs, a new study has found that one sick person is unlikely to get an entire plane ill – but sitting next to one is still a risk. The research – which was supported by the Boeing Company – aimed to track how respiratory illnesses are spread during air travel, with the findings published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. However, it only looked at germs spread through droplets from coughing or sneezing and not other infectious diseases.

If you want to stay healthy on a flight, stay in your seat. Image by izusek/Getty Images

The key piece of information for many passengers will be that the best thing to do is pick a window seat. That’s because the study found that those sitting in a window seat came into contact with fewer fellow passengers – thus reducing the opportunities to catch an illness. But, the window seat alone can’t save you. The second piece is staying in your seat so you can reduce your interaction with other travellers. Unsurprisingly, researchers found that people in the aisle seat are more likely to get up and walk around – probably because they don’t have to disturb their neighbours – but are then increasing their risk of encountering someone ill.

The research was based on how likely it is for an individual to interact with an infected person, based on a four- to five-hour flight in a single-aisle plane. Using simulations, they tracked how people moved around planes to see how likely they would be to come into contact with a hypothetically infected passenger. Overall, if you are in a row in front or behind a sick passenger, or two seats on either side, your risk of getting sick has increased. Read more about the study here.

If you want the best advice for how to stay healthy on flights, why not read how airline staffers keep themselves healthy in the sky.