Hygiene tips for long-haul flights

Make it to your destination in full health.

On a recent long-haul flight, I had the misfortune of sitting near a passenger with a nasty cold who continued to cough and sneeze without covering his mouth despite being offered tissues by a fellow traveller.

As I watched his spittle coat the entertainment console embedded in the seatback in front of him I realised while you can’t control the behaviour of other passengers, there are a few things you can do to protect yourself from the inevitable germs that come from being packed into a ‘tin can’ with hundreds of strangers.

  1. Sanitise, sanitise, sanitise
    We’ve all seen the video that pops up on social media of parents changing a baby’s nappy on the tray table. The same tray table that you’re about to eat your in-flight meal off has more than eight times the amount of bacteria than the toilet flush button. Give your tray table, headrest and armrests a wipe down with antibacterial sanitising wipes to mitigate as many nasties as possible. 

  2. Wear shoes to the toilet
    On a long-haul flight you’ll see many people wandering to the toilet in just their socks. Pro tip: That liquid on the floor of the toilet isn’t water. Avoid soggy feet and seriously unsanitary socks by packing a pair of thongs in your carry-on luggage. You can even pick up foldable disposable slippers from Daiso and other discount shops. 

  3. Brush your teeth
    Most of us brush our teeth at least once a day and there’s no reason you can’t do it in the air too. You’ll feel refreshed and your seatmates will thank you, especially during a long-haul flight. Many airlines provide toothbrushes or BYO travel-size mouthwash. 

  4. Wash your hands
    It should go with out saying but wash your hands with soap every time you go to the toilet and before every meal. This is something that most people do on the ground so it’s no extra hassle to do it in the air. Pack some hand sanitiser in your carry-on so you don’t have to join the bathroom queue each time the food trolley comes past.

  5. BYO pillow and blanket
    Airlines often supply pillows and blankets for long-haul flights but if they’re not wrapped in plastic it’s likely they haven’t been freshly laundered. Bringing your own neck pillow will be better for your posture, help you to sleep better and ensure you’re not sharing germs with other travellers. Extra socks and a scarf or pashmina are an alternative to the airline-supplied blanket and can be used at your destination.