The early bird gets the worm — or, in this case, the cleanest planes.
According to former flight attendant Jay Robert, who spent nearly two decades in the aviation industry, the later the flight, the filthier the aircraft.
“Throughout the day, there’s only time to perform light spot cleaning, with some airlines relying on cabin crew to maintain cabin presentability until the plane reaches its final destination for the night stop, during which the aircraft is more thoroughly cleaned in preparation for the flight out the following morning,” he told the Daily Mail, chalking it up to the airports’ “tight schedules.”
“Most airlines that operate domestic and short-haul flights adhere to tight schedules, limiting the time aircraft spend on the ground.”
But germaphobes beware: Just because you take off on a 5 a.m. flight doesn’t mean it’s completely sanitized.
Robert also dished four more tips for a germ-free flight.
First, he recommended passengers sanitize their seat area — tray tables, seat cushions, armrests, screens and seat buckle — and wouldn’t dare go near the seat pocket.
“One area I steer clear of is the seatback pocket, as it often harbors various unpleasant surprises, from dirty tissues and diapers to full barf bags,” he explained.
Thirdly, Roberts revealed that he wouldn’t sit on the seat cushion, claiming aircraft seats are not thoroughly cleaned between flights, and advised travelers to use a blanket as a chair cover.
“On several occasions, passengers have complained they sat in what seemed like clean seats, only to discover that the cushion beneath the cover was soiled and damp from the previous flight,” he said, adding that he would only use the provided pillows as back support.
“Lazy cleaners often change only the top layer and not the entire cushion, meaning the pillow may still carry stains from body fluids like drool, sweat, and blood.”
Fourth, the ex-flight attendant advises you keep your shoes on.
If you want to kick back and relax — as much as you can on a cramped airplane — Robert cautioned against taking off your shoes, as the carpets can be “nasty.” Not only is it unsanitary, but foot odor can be a nuisance, or even a “real threat to air quality,” for fellow travelers.
“I’ve encountered situations where the scent emanating from someone’s bare feet was so overpowering that I had to discreetly spray perfume in that area,” he recalled.
“There were also instances it was so toxic that I had to wake passengers and delicately discuss the matter, explaining that their foot odor was causing discomfort to others and that it was necessary to wear their shoes.”
If you wouldn’t go into a public restroom barefoot, don’t do it on the plane, he warned.
nally, for a germ-free flight, Robert advises that you pay attention to your surrounding before putting your carry-on items on the floor.
Your bags could be spoiled if something spilled or leaked onto the floor from the passenger before you.
“Before placing your bags on the floor, carefully inspect your floor area, especially under seats, as cleaners often overlook these areas,” he said, advising using the plastic wrap from the blanket provided by the aircraft to cover the floor under the seat in front of you.
Even after almost 20 years in the business, Robert admitted he finds it difficult to “trust” airline cleaning practices, claiming that, because cleaning companies typically “overworking and underpaying” their staff, “cleanliness standards” are not met.
“Aircraft cleaning is highly unpredictable,” he said. “Even airlines renowned for their cleanliness standards fly to airports where they lack complete control over the contracted cleaning company.”