Germs: Invisible intruders infesting airports and aircraft


Under the microscope, microorganisms offer a fascinating picture. Bacteria, viruses, fungi or protozoa come in pretty, bright colours and interesting shapes: green balls with or red ones without handsome spikes, orange spirals, blue spheres, yellow rods, violet blotches or grey furry polka-dots. Luckily, the majority of bacteria are considered harmless to helpful. Other lifeforms invade our immune system and cause tremendous havoc in our bodies. Against some, no approved and/or effective pharmaceuticals are available on the market as of yet.

The more populated or frequented a place is, the more germ-infested it becomes. Being of the travelling kind and a member of the cosmopolitan crowd: Have you ever wondered about the degree of cleanliness while at an airport or aboard an aeroplane? If you have, what comes next won’t be surprising news to you. If you haven’t, you better brace yourselves. Travelmath, an online trip calculator, conducted a study on the hygiene on site and sent out a microbiologist to take samples from five airports and four flights – with disconcerting results. Albeit, the most unappetising surface is not the lavatory’s door handle, as is often anticipated. Here’s the hit list of the ugliest bacteria spins:

Airports and aircraft are infested with germs.

Airports and aircraft are infested with germs.

To summarize, here is a ranking of the dirtiest places and surfaces on airplanes and at airports:
1. Tray table – 2,155 CFU/sq. in.
2. Drinking fountain buttons – 1,240 *CFU/sq. in.
3. Overhead air vent – 285 CFU/sq. in.
4. Lavatory flush button – 265 CFU/sq. in.
5. Seatbelt buckle – 230 CFU/sq. in.
6. Bathroom stall locks – 70 CFU/sq. in.

*A CFU = a colony forming unit.

Above graph is courtesy of ©

Attribution for the header image: a creative commons by PeskyPlummer (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons