What Could Be Lurking on Your Airplane Seat?

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With all the concern over the coronavirus, many are choosing not to travel for fear of being exposed to the disease on an airplane. And when they do fly, people are taking extra precautions.

Videos have gone viral showing passengers wiping down their headrests and revealing black gunk, suggesting that they hadn't been thoroughly cleaned. 

Inside Edition also found similar gunk on a first class flight from Washington, D.C. — so in January, we swabbed and collected samples on four different flights, and sent them to IEH Laborities in Seattle, Washington, for testing. 

The results were disturbing: The bacteria count on the headrest and seat belt of Chief Investigative Correspondent Lisa Guerrero was in the billions and two out of four tray tables tested positive for E.coli

If you do fly, what steps can you take to reduce the germ count?

One passenger told Inside Edition that she bought an extra pack of disinfectant wipes to use on her seat. 

An airline industry spokesperson also told Inside Edition that in the wake of the coronavirus crisis, they are enhancing disinfection and cleaning protocols. 

“The safety and security of passengers and crew is – and always will be – the top priority of U.S. carriers. This is why airlines have been working continuously with several federal agencies, including DOT, DHS, HHS and CDC, to help contain and stop the spread of the novel coronavirus. Airlines are enhancing disinfection and cleaning protocols and urging passengers and crew to follow CDC guidance.”

More tips for travelers:

  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
  • Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer (containing at least 60% alcohol) if soap and water are not available
  • Minimize contact between passengers
  • Wipe down all surfaces you come in contact with (tray, table, seat belt, headrest, armrest, air vent, television screen, etc.)
  • Use a paper towel or sanitary wipe when touching door handles, toilet seat, etc.


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