While there’s lots to love about air travel, there’s also some ick to unpack. From treacherous tray tables to notorious ice cubes, let’s unpack the cringeworthy world of the most disgusting and unhygienic parts of flying. 

Tray Tables: Not-So-Clean Airborne Dining Destination

If you’re someone with any sort of experience flying, you probably already know that the tray tables are a veritable bacteria factory. Even though airplanes have been better cleaned between flights in recent years, the tray table is no joke. And lately, we’re getting reports that the airlines have relaxed their more vigilant cleaning practices. People put their heads on tray tables and tend to make messes while eating. Less fastidious parents have even been known to use the tray table as a changing station. Do yourself a favor. Arm yourself with disinfectant wipes and give that tray table a thorough scrub when you first board the plane. 

The Port-a-Potties of the Skies

The in-flight lavatory is an especially yucky place to be. It’s a tiny space that gets used by a lot of people. The sky bathroom may have seen a particularly nightmarish kind of bacteria. We’ll just leave it at that. In order to protect yourself, wash your hands thoroughly. try to avoid touching surfaces as much as possible, and spend a minimum of time in there. 

Hate for the Headrests

The headrest is yet another place that doesn’t get cleaned as well as it should between flights. Stray hairs from other passengers (ugh) can be left behind and not vacuumed up before the next person gets on board. Let’s try not to think about the kinds of uninvited guests that could take up home there. Consider bringing your own neck pillow, headrest cover or hat to create a barrier and protect your noggin. 

The Seat Pocket Black Hole

Seat pockets can be repositories for unwanted “treasures.” Think about the stuff that gets left behind from a flight – chewed gum, food wrappers and snack dregs, used tissues, etc. Don’t be tempted to drop your own personal items in your seat pocket. Instead, we recommend giving the seat pocket a pass. Stow your essentials elsewhere. 

Blankets and Pillows: Here Lies a Lie

Don’t assume the blankets and pillows you get on a flight have been thoroughly laundered. A lot of airlines have stopped circulating them in recent years, but for those that do? You can’t be sure they’ve been cleaned just because they’re in plastic. Sometimes the airlines just refold and reuse. 

In-flight Ice: You’re just chillin’ with bacteria

For our money, drinking ice might be the most unsafe item on this list, since most people know the other items are bacteria-magnets. Ice flies under the radar. Here’s the problem. Studies have shown that the water used to make ice on airplanes isn’t always the cleanest, and airplane ice cube trays harbor bacteria. If you’re concerned about germs, skip the ice altogether and opt for a bottled bevvie instead. 

Protect Yourself from Germs

Always carry hand sanitizer or sanitizing wipes when traveling. You can keep pesky bacteria at bay with just a little extra care. Wiping down high-touch surfaces when you first board is key. Just give the tray table, armrests and screens a wipe down before you settle in. This way you can avoid sharing bacteria with strangers.

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