Ventilation rates allow a change of air 20 to 30 times every sixty minutes. Most of the modern aircraft today have recirculation systems, which can recycle up to 50% of cabin air. That recirculated air is then passed through HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filters, which are also used in hospital operating rooms and intensive care units, which can trap dust particles, bacteria, fungi and viruses.
The system is far from perfect, but provides us far more protection than many travelers realize and if you take responsibility for sterilizing your own "travel space" with sanitizing wipes, you help help reduce the chances of catching anything from your fellow travelers.
Here are his top 5 suggestions when you do decide to fly.
1: Board Last
We live in a day when passengers line up 30 minutes early, just so they can board before others. Much of this is a result of decreased carry-on baggage storage space, but for others it is simply a game to be first.
My wife and I travel monthly and we are now among the last to board an aircraft. We grab the non-refundable First Class tickets (only a few per flight, but what an incredible bargain) and instead of boarding early and then having 200+ people walk by us hacking all the way, we remain comfortably seated in the gate area and board as late as we can.
2: Pick a window seat
The further you can get away from the traffic of the aisle, the better protected you are when flying. Any separation at all will help increase your chances of not catching the flu or the dreaded virus of the day.
3: Sit in a bulkhead row if possible
The first row of any section affords a bit more separation from the row in front of you and any distance helps. Even an emergency row exit allows a bit of extra distance between your row and that of the row in front of you. One could argue the last row of any section could also provide the same sort of protection, but I simply cannot recommend that kind of seat to anyone!
4: Wipe baby, wipe
Once boarded, take a brief moment to wipe down the arm rests, tray table and the video screen down with a Clorox wipe. Airlines are doing more to clean their aircraft, but nothing as extensive as we would like, so taking measures into your own hands is strongly recommended.
Speaking of hands, keep them out of the seat back pocket. The two places on an aircraft with the most germs is the seat back pocket and the lavatory floor.
5: Use that napkin on the way to the lavatory
When you need to use the lavatory, take the napkin provided by the flight attendant (you only get one) and use that when you are opening the lavatory door. As you close and lock the door continue to use the napkin as your protection. Toss the napkin then and use a towel or napkin as you exit the lavatory, on the lock and handle. Under no circumstances should you allow your hands to touch these common areas, as the risk of germs is too high to take any chances.
Jay Ratliff is considered an airline expert and contributes regularly from his home base in Cincinnati, Ohio.
photo: getty images