After spending almost 20 years in the airline industry, including supervising cabin crew teams as a manager on board the world’s largest commercial airliner, the A380, I have had first-hand experience with inconsistent aircraft cleanliness standards. , ranging from good to bad to downright disgusting.
Aircraft cleaning is very unpredictable. Even airlines known for their cleanliness standards fly to airports where they lack full control over the contracted cleaning company. Unfortunately, these cleaning services often follow practices of overworking and underpaying their staff, resulting in a lack of motivation to do a thorough job.
This, in turn, results in the airline’s cleanliness standards not being fully met on flights returning to the main base.
Because of these unpredictable standards, I find it difficult to fully trust airline cleaning practices and, as a passenger, prefer to take matters into my own hands.
Here are some of the best tips for someone picky about flight cleanliness.
Try to choose an early flight – the first ones to leave are the cleanest
Early flights on short-haul routes tend to be the cleanest, writes Jay Robert
In addition to having a higher chance of arriving on time, early flights on short-haul routes also tend to be the cleanest.
Most airlines operating domestic and short-haul flights adhere to tight schedules, limiting the time planes spend on the ground.
Throughout the day, there is only time for light spot cleaning, and some airlines rely on cabin crew to maintain cabin presentability until the aircraft arrives at its final destination for the overnight layover, during which The aircraft is further cleaned in preparation for the outbound flight. The next morning.
Use blankets to cover the seats, not yourself
“On several occasions, passengers have complained that they sat in what appeared to be clean seats, only to discover that the cushion under the cover was dirty,” Jay writes.
This tip is especially useful for long flights, especially in economy class.
Airlines often provide pillows and blankets for international travel. Although these essentials are cleaned before each flight, I have developed the practice of using the provided blanket as a seat cover since the seats are not cleaned between flights.
On several occasions, passengers have complained that they sat in what appeared to be clean seats, only to discover that the cushion under the cover was dirty and damp from the previous flight.
Lazy cleaners often change only the top layer and not the entire cushion, which means the pillow may still have stains from bodily fluids like drool, sweat, and blood.
I suggest avoiding the pillows provided in economy class for anything other than back support.
Pro tip for the team: Bring your own set of compact, personally cleaned travel pillows and blankets. If using the bedding provided, check the pillow under the cover and inspect the blanket before use. A quick sniff test can help determine if they have been cleaned properly. I have encountered many sour-smelling pillows and blankets during my stay in heaven.
Carpet can be unpleasant
Before placing your suitcases on the floor, carefully inspect the floor area, especially under the seats, as these areas are often missed by cleaners.
In a recent incident on a transatlantic Air France flight last June, a couple noticed a horrible smell under their belongings on the floor during the flight. Upon inspection, they discovered that the carpet on which their belongings were placed was contaminated with blood and feces from a passenger on the previous flight who had suffered a severe hemorrhage. Although the incident was reported to the airline, cleaners had missed the carpet under the seat.
Pro tip for the team: For an extra layer of protection, use the plastic wrap from the provided blanket to cover the bottom of your bag. If you spot any serious cleanliness issues during boarding, inform the crew immediately while the door is still open. That way, they will have more options to deal with the situation.
keep your shoes on
‘If you walk into a bathroom without shoes, rest assured we will look at you with a sense of revulsion’ – Jay Robert
Following the previous point about cleaning airplane carpets, this tip may seem obvious, but it is one of the biggest annoyances for flight attendants: passengers walking around barefoot.
Foot odor poses a real threat to air quality on flights
Jay Robert, former flight attendant
If you walk into a bathroom without shoes on, rest assured we’ll stare at you with a sense of revulsion, fully aware of what we probably just cleaned off the floor before you walked in. Just as you wouldn’t walk through a public bathroom without shoes, the same principle applies to an airplane bathroom.
Foot odor poses a real threat to air quality on flights. I have encountered situations where the smell emanating from someone’s bare feet was so overwhelming that I had to discreetly spray perfume on that area. There were also cases when it was so toxic that I had to wake up the passengers and delicately discuss the matter, explaining to them that the smell of their feet caused discomfort to others and that it was necessary to wear shoes.
Pro tip for the team: Consider packing travel slippers in your carry-on luggage. Many hotels offer them as in-room amenities. If you are sure that your feet are free of unpleasant odors, these slippers can provide you with a more comfortable and hygienic alternative to shoes.
Clean your seating area
A pro tip that many flight attendants swear by is to disinfect your seat area.
Many of us carry disinfectant wipes in our bags, making sure to thoroughly clean every touchable surface around our seat, including the seat itself if it’s made of a wipeable material.
Key areas not to miss are the trays, entertainment screens and controls. I also pay attention to cleaning the seat belt buckle and air conditioning control. One area I avoid is the seatback pocket, as it often holds various unpleasant surprises, from dirty tissues and diapers to full barf bags. I don’t put my phone or personal items inside for this reason. If I need to use something from my pocket, I follow up with a round of hand sanitizer.