Are More Passengers Getting Sick on Airplanes Due to Poor Cleaning?

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The New York Times recently ran a story titled, Should You Worry About Getting Sick From a Plane Flight? Maybe which talks about how more passengers are getting sick from planes and it’s not due to infectious diseases from other passengers, but it’s due to planes not being cleaned properly due to not having enough time.

Per the New York Times,

While infectious disease doctors say a passenger’s greatest health risk on an airplane may come from exposure to fellow travelers, the risk of spreading some diseases can increase if surfaces in airline cabins and bathrooms are not adequately cleaned.

Airlines typically hire outside companies to perform “quick turns” (the cleaning between flights) and overnight cleaning, as well as deep cleaning, which occurs about once a month.

Not all flights are cleaned equally. A Los Angeles turn from New York may be on the ground for 55 minutes, and only have 10 minutes to be cleaned in between flights, where as the first flight of the morning has been on the ground all night and received a much more thorough cleaning.

Current and former cabin cleaners interviewed by The New York Times describe a work environment where pay is at or near the minimum wage, morale is low and turnover is high. The Service Employees International Union has been working with cabin cleaners in campaigns to improve benefits, working conditions and win unionization.

Another issue the high turn-over for the cabin cleaners who are contract workers. Unlike the ticket and gate agents who work for the airline, these cleaners work for a third-party company and don’t receive the same pay or benefits.

A number of airlines, including Delta, JetBlue and Southwest, declined to provide an executive to discuss cleanliness on their planes. But a trade group that represents numerous carriers in the United States, Airlines for America, said through a spokeswoman, Alison McAfee, “The safety, security and well-being of our passengers and crew is always our highest priority, and airlines know that the cleanliness of the aircraft and cabin components is important to customers.”

While airlines are so concerned about running their flights on-time and building shorter and shorter turns, the sacrifice is that the aircrafts aren’t being cleaned properly.

Feel free to share your thoughts or concerns in the comments below.

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  1. I mostly fly Delta and I can tell you that to quote our president, their planes are ‘shitholes’.

    Smudges on the windows where kids with runny noses stick their faces or crap in the back seat pocket, or peanuts or other such crumbs or chunks are on the floor. It is really terrible.

    My wife always asks me ‘are you bringing home airplane germs?

  2. “The safety, security and well-being of our passengers and crew is always our highest priority,”
    Liar, liar, pants on fire. Their highest priority is executive bonuses, shareholder profits, and executive salaries.

  3. Wow. Not surprised. While I can’t confirm I’m sick from a plane, I flew last week on a plane that had just cleaned up some vomit quickly. Less than 24 hours, I received a nasty stomach virus that I still have and am waiting for my test results. (I’ve been sick for a week now.)

  4. This is why I use antibacterial wet wipes to wipe down the tray table, arm rests, window shades. I can’t trust that cleaning was done and thoroughly done if it was done.

  5. IMHO much of what is said is often untrue. Many germs die quickly in a non moist nutritious setting. Dry surfaces are not good for germs. I also believe that wipes, used ideally, are about 99% effective. That is very far from 100%. It might be prudent to double wipes, one with alcohol and one with another active ingredient.
    I would advise avoiding soiled surfaces, using the aforementioned wipes and hoping my immune system will do its best.
    I am not a physician but stomach sick for a week sounds very nasty and even dangerous. Be aware of the risk of losing metabolites.

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