- story by LB Kovac
The first commercial airline flight happened more than 100 years ago, when Tony Jannus flew passengers across Tampa Bay from St. Petersburg to Tampa, Florida. The first ticket, sold to former mayor Abram Pheil, was $400, but every ticket after the inaugural flight cost a passenger a meager $5 (or about $120, when adjusted for inflation).
The plane, a Benoist XIV, lacked many of the amenities we’ve come to expect in modern airplanes: no toilet, no flight attendant, no mid-flight snack, and no other passengers. Along with plenty of leg and elbow room, the first commercial passenger didn’t have to worry about catching the flu from his coughing neighbor.
Mind, Body, Spirit
If you’re planning on flying this holiday season, there’s a few things you can do to keep yourself safe from the spread of germs.
The best advice for flyers is also the simplest: drink lots of water. Humidity in a plane’s cabin is kept under 20%, much lower than the 30% humidity most people keep in their own homes. On a long flight, you can easily dry out your mucus glands, which in-turn can make you more susceptible to picking up germs.
“[Drinking lots of water] will keep your respiratory tract moist, which gives you more protection against germs,” says Dr. Abinash Virk, an infectious disease expert at the Mayo Clinic. “Hydrating also prevents your skin from getting dry and cracked, which makes you susceptible to infections.”
If you’re set on enjoying a hot cup of joe on your flight, you can always ask for an extra cup of water from the flight attendant.
In 2008, a severe outbreak of gastrointestinal distress amongst passengers on a Los Angeles-bound plane caused the flight to make an emergency landing. Initially, the airline thought that the virus spread via the restrooms. However, viral pathogen researchers found that all the infected passengers had one thing in common: almost all of them were sitting in aisle seats.
The aisle seats, though coveted, put passengers in the way of more hands. Passing flight attendants and fellow passengers use the outermost armrests to steady themselves as they walk along the plane’s aisles. This makes the outside seats a hotbed for bacteria, passed along by every person that touches the seat’s armrests.
It seems like mom’s advice is as important now as ever: keep your hands to yourself, and you’re less likely to pick up germs, or spread them to other passengers.
If you’re now afraid of armrests, there’s one more place on the plane that you should be even more cautious of: the bathroom. Airlines do clean them each night, but, when you’re on a long flight, or a short flight on a plane that is used for multiple flights each day, the bathroom will get a lot of use between thorough cleanings. In economy, as many as 50 people share one bathroom on the plane each flight.
A good supply of hand sanitizer minimizes the surfaces in the bathroom your hands can come into contact with and insures you are the one out of 50 who remains bacteria-free.
After the bathroom door, the tray table is the surface most touched by passengers on a plane. And, when you’re enjoying that coffee and water, you’re picking up germs from the
Ideally, airplane crews would be wiping them down between passengers, but there’s often not enough time for attendants to give the plane a deep cleaning between flights. You must do what others cannot and clean the tray table.
A quick douse with an anti-microbial wet wipe (one with a built-in moisturizer will keep your hands hydrated) will eliminate most of the germs on the tray table’s surface, allowing you to nosh on those in-flight peanuts worry-free.
Little did Fansler know that one day, the holidays would be the airline industry’s busiest, and germiest, time of the year. Of the average approximately 11,000 flights a day that happened during the 2016 holiday season, one in every 604 flights was grounded for medical emergencies. Following these tips to keep yourself germ free can insure that you, and the other passengers, get to your destination on time.