Travelmath.com sent a microbiologist to gather samples from four flights across five airports to see if there is any truth to that.
Based on what the microbiologist found, airplanes and airports are indeed dirtier than the average home. Surprisingly, the dirtiest spot in these locations is not the bathroom, but instead the tray tables where food is placed. Given the proximity of the dirtiest surface to food, it makes it very possible for bacteria to be directly transmitted into the mouth.
Assessed in colony-forming units per square inch, the following were rated as the dirtiest places on airplanes and in airports:
- Tray Table – 2,155 CFU/sq. in.
- Buttons on a drinking fountain – 1,240 CFU/sq. in.
- Overhead air vent – 285 CFU/sq. in.
- Button for flushing the toilet – 265 CFU/sq. in.
- Buckles for seatbelts – 230 CFU/sq. in.
- Locks for bathroom stalls – 70 CFU/sq. in.
Bathrooms were actually some of the cleaner surfaces tested, which goes against popular notion, and this may be due to them getting more regular cleaning schedules.