You may think you could guess the most contaminated spots on a plane. But there’s a surprise spot that delivers 'a tiny and invisible contaminated souvenir'.
You may think you could guess the most contaminated spots on a plane. But there’s a surprise spot that delivers 'a tiny and invisible contaminated souvenir'.

Three most dangerous spots on a plane

New York Times best-selling author and behavioural psychologist, Martin Lindstrom, has recently launched a COVID-safe travel tips e-book titled "Travel Truth and Lies Unmasked".

The free e-book provides those travelling in this COVID-19 era with handy tips on how to navigate the hidden pitfalls of international travel with confidence.

"The world of travel we once knew is no longer the same and like everyone I began to wonder, what is the reality of travelling these days?" says Lindstrom.

"After quickly googling 'COVID safety while flying' I discovered that it's almost impossible to hunt down the truth. So I set out to write a book that will equip people with some handy hints as they embark on their first travel adventure in our 'new normal' world." In these uncertain times, one thing is certain and that is, a consumer's number one priority is their health and safety."

In one chapter Lindstrom ponders the question: how risky do you rank the COVID-19 'danger zones' on a commercial airliner? And are these really the spots we should be worrying about?

This is an edited extract from his e-book, revealing the surprising things he discovered:

Since COVID-19 hit, we are all more tuned in to high contact surfaces. Picture: Getty
Since COVID-19 hit, we are all more tuned in to high contact surfaces. Picture: Getty

Let's start with the epicentre of all in-flight horrors, the lavatory. Consider the handle on the inside and outside lavatory door, the tap, and the already mysteriously preheated toilet seat. Or what about the touch screen and the monitor. For some reason, you're always forced to wrestle with the monitor, reaching with both hands into that hole while trying to pull out the screen.

 

Most of us are pretty careful about hygiene when using the plane’s toilet. Picture: Getty
Most of us are pretty careful about hygiene when using the plane’s toilet. Picture: Getty

And let's not neglect that perennial hotspot, the fold-down table lock. It's situated just in front of your eyes and mouth (as it's also been situated in front of the eyes and mouths of the previous 116 passengers who've been assigned the same seat over the past month). One passenger after another has coughed and sneezed while pushing and twisting the little lock … while desperately trying to fold out that dirty tray table … while a less-than-patient cabin crew member waits in the aisle with your bag of pretzels and cup of lukewarm chlorine-flavoured water.

 

How many hands have touched this spot before you? Picture: Getty
How many hands have touched this spot before you? Picture: Getty

 

If you feel like these items I've just described are the true danger zones aboard an airliner - think again. In fact, the experts at Protek* say none of the above should worry us very much. Counter-intuitive as it may sound, the spots we perceive as most contaminated are typically the most hygienic, for the simple reason that we're overly cautious in those areas. Nearly every person who interacts with those spots treads carefully, touches invisibly threatening surfaces with napkins, showers themselves in hand sanitiser, and struggles against the airflow to place one sheet of toilet paper after another elegantly on the toilet seat to create a clean surface on which to perch one's bare bum.

 

Touch screens are another spot people are wary of. Picture: Getty
Touch screens are another spot people are wary of. Picture: Getty

 

Typically, we should instead be watching for danger in spots where we're distracted by our subconscious sense of security - or perhaps, from a neuroscientific point-of-view, spots we associate with a perception of safety - even though they may be a far cry from it.

Announcements over the loudspeaker serve to camouflage one of those items behind a layer of perceived safety.

I'm talking about the seatbelt buckle.

 

The thing that people tend to forget about … Picture: Getty
The thing that people tend to forget about … Picture: Getty

Did you ever consider that this shiny piece of truly lifesaving piece of metal could be a potential COVID-19 danger? Actually cleaning them never appears on any airline's sanitation protocol. They frequently remind their passengers, 'Safety is our first priority' - in terms of a crash, maybe, but not at all in terms of cleanliness.

They fold the belts neat and tidy across the seats, creating the illusion that the buckles have been cleaned. But the last passenger's fingerprints, bacteria, and viruses remain as invisible souvenirs for the next passenger to share and enjoy.

Imagine how many hands have dipped into the seat pocket and handled the magazines and safety placards. Reaching down into the 'lucky dip', have you ever discovered a less-than-pleasant surprise hidden down there? I know I have.

Another 'please-do-not-touch' spot is the top of each seat. How many hundreds of passengers have used them as navigation crutches, acting semi-blindfolded, stalked by bad luck unless they systematically place a hand on each and every seat-top the whole way back to Seat 57F? Or even worse, the passenger who reaches for the seat-top to pull himself up and inevitably grabs a handful of your hair. A leisure traveller I interviewed told me, 'We should know not to do that, but people just don't know how to act when travelling.'

And - you didn't think about this, did you? - what about your socks?

 

Lots of people remove their shoes as soon as a long flight begins. Picture: Getty
Lots of people remove their shoes as soon as a long flight begins. Picture: Getty

Twenty per cent of passengers visit the lavatories without shoes. As they shuffle down the aisle and do their business in the lav, like a sponge their socks absorb … well, let's just say, everything that's been sprinkled, dripped, and dropped on the floor. And then, back in their seats, how many of those shoeless passengers massage their sore feet, contaminate their fingers, and, sometime in the next few minutes, absent-mindedly touch their faces, their armrests, the fold-down tray, and the window shade?

* Lindstrom's e-book has been written in association with Intertek Protek - the world's first health, safety and wellbeing assurance program, which is intended to protect people, workplaces and public spaces. It is the first comprehensive offering of assurance services designed to provide businesses, employees, and consumers with the confidence they need to operate in the post-COVID-19 'new normal'.

See more:

- The $12 mask every traveller should have

- 8 new rules to expect on your next flight

- When can I fly internationally again?

- Virus risk on flights isn't what you think

- Is it worth paying for seat selection?

Originally published as Three most dangerous spots on a plane



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