Germs: Window Seats are Dirtier Than Aisle Seats

We all know (or should know!) not to stick our hands down inside seat back pockets. Those are bigger germ farms than the monkey in Outbreak. All seats have them though, usually even bulkhead seats. So those seat back pockets don’t differentiate one seat from another.

The question is, if you want to avoid the plague, which seats are the most infected on an aircraft? Which ones do you want to avoid?

The answer actually seems obvious once you think about it: Window seats are dirtier than aisle seats. There’s more surface area that gets dirty, and it’s harder to reach.

The closer the seat got to the window, the dirtier it was. The aisle seat, however, appeared to have the least amount of dirt. …[T]he reason it has less dirt is because it is cleaned more often than the other two seats due to the proximity to the aisle.

An aisle seat is always better and I hadn’t even considered cleanliness issues when explaining why.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. 2nd question. How’s the dirty-to-clean ratio when comparing front to back of the plane (even within the same class of service?)

    My guess is seats in the middle of a class of service are the dirtiest…

  2. “The question is, if you want to avoid the plague, which seats are the most infected on an aircraft?”

    Funny I’ve taken hundreds of flights, in all types of seats, and in every continent but Antarctica. And I’ve never caught the plague.

    Seriously, Gary? I’ve got a suggestion: never leave your house. Then you can have a completely controlled environment.

  3. They call it a phobia for a reason.
    It’s irrational

    The more research we do, the more we understand how important it is for us to get exposed to minor pathogens.

    Emerging evidence indicates that Babies exposed to minor pathogens have smarter immune systems than those in a disinfected environment. Less allergies, asthma, and eczema.

    We also better understand how toxic these antibacterial soaps and detergents (like triclosan) are to our system. (Hint:throw it all out and stick to routine soap and water)

    Lastly, routine cleaning of an airplane won’t help vs a plague.

    If you’re worried about this, bring some soap and water and wipe down your surface.

  4. Is it just me, or does it seem to others too that the person in the group who is most paranoid about germs is the one who ends up getting sick, while those who simply take normal precautions tend to do fine? I’ve noticed this several times. Of course in fairness it could be that the person with the phobia knows he or she is easily prone to illness and simply gets sick despite the extra worry and measures taken. In any case when I see a scientific study that shows people who fly in window seats are dropping dead of the plaque in large numbers, I’ll get worried about that.

  5. Yes, but there’s also ejaculate in shampoo bottles, but only the reusable ones; not the tiny ones.

  6. Ever since American Airlines banned emotional support monkeys from flying, I have never found a forgotten emotional support monkey in my aircraft seat back pocket

  7. Hmmm, emotional support monkeys or miniature horses?
    Which one would be the biggest concern?
    From my experience I’ll pick baby diapers..

  8. Most of the comments made to this article are so childish , I mean emotional support monkeys, miniature horses, germs here , germs there, don’t leave the house etc. etc.——- how did this blog and its comments become so far removed over time from interesting and useful air/hotel travel information—-sad.

  9. Maybe now I can get my wife to stop taking the window seat while I get the middle. Actually, no, that’s not gonna happen.

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