Forget snakes on a plane. Worry about the germs. Research shows that air travelers are at a higher risk for infection than people going about their daily lives.
Just how are illnesses spread on a plane? It comes down to two main factors: Airborne germs that are easily inhaled by people sitting in close quarters, or contact with germ-riddled surfaces on the plane. These factors are exacerbated by the dry conditions typical of airplanes, because viruses prefer low-humidity environments.
The good news is that, for the most part, airplanes' air filtration systems function well enough that you're unlikely to contract more serious illnesses. Instead, your greatest risk is contracting the common cold or a classic case of the flu.
While that's all well and good, it may be little comfort to people who don't particularly want to have a cold or the flu while trying to enjoy their vacation. Luckily, it is possible to decrease your risk of infection from germs on a plane. Here's how to maximize the chances of disembarking the plane as healthy as you boarded it.
If you know that you're suffering from a contagious illness, do your immune system (and your fellow passengers) a favor and don't expose yourself to any more germs by boarding a plane. In particular, the CDC advises that people avoid plane travel if you're more than 36 weeks pregnant, have recently had surgery, have had a recent (serious) injury, or have a fever. In each of these cases, you'll be traveling with a compromised immune system, which increases your risk of catching a contagious infection. Some airlines may be lenient with rescheduling fees if you can prove that you're sick; contact the airline to discuss your options.
If you find yourself beside someone who's hacking or sniffling, it's okay (really!) to ask a flight attendant if it's possible to switch seats. Even moving just a few rows away can help protect you from a sick person's germs. If there are no other seats on the plane, donning a face mask might help.
Tray tables, armrests, and seat-back pockets are consistently found to be some of thegermiest parts of a plane. Minimize contact with these germs by using wet wipes to disinfect tray tables, armrests, and seat-back pockets and/or using hand sanitizer after touching any of these surfaces.
For the most part, your hands are your body's primary point of contact with germy surfaces. Those germs (including cold and flu viruses) can survive on your skin for hours. The simple fix? Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or (in a pinch) with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
Circulating air is key to preventing the spread of illness on a plane, so keep the air vent above you open. And don't worry—the air pumping through the vent is filtered and safe to breathe.
A Wall Street Journal investigation found that airlines tend to wash their blankets and pillows only every 5 to 30 days. (Yes, you read that right.) This means that when you borrow a blanket from the airline, you're sharing a whole lot of germs. Avoid the issue entirely by bringing along your own travel blanket and pillow.
The spray that accompanies flushing spreads germs throughout the airplane bathroom; closing the lid before you flush will help you avoid contact with these nasty microorganisms. The flusher itself is also a hotbed of germs, so put a paper towel in between your hand and the flusher whenever you flush. And of course, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly after using the loo.
The high elevations and low humidity typical of airplane travel have a dehydrating effect, which can provoke headaches, stomach problems, cramps, and fatigue, and diminish your immune system's ability to fight off infections. The simple solution? Stay hydrated by regularly sipping water before, during, and after your flight. It's also a good idea to avoid alcohol and caffeine, which can contribute to dehydration.
There are a few caveats to this point, however. It's best to avoid drinking the tap water available on airplanes, because airplane tap water has consistently been found to contain levels of bacteria well above U.S. government limits. Opt for bottled water instead. For a similar reason, be sure to ask for drinks sans ice—since many planes refill their ice tanks at foreign airports, the water standards may not be up to par with what you're used to.
Cabin air tends to dry out our nasal membranes, which are the immune system's main line of defense against incoming germs. Keep your immune system functioning at optimal capacity by using a nasal mist or saline nasal spray during the flight.
While all the immune-boosting strategies in the world can't guarantee your health with absolute certainty, practicing these behaviors on every flight will give you the best chance of making it through a plane ride with your immune system unscathed.
This post was originally published on Hipmunk's Tailwind Blog on January 22nd, 2016.
Japanese airline All Nippon Airways (ANA) recently rolled out a Boeing 787 airplane painted from tip to tail with the likeness of Star Wars’ R2-D2. The airplane will carry its first lucky passengers beginning Oct. 18 with a flight between Tokyo and Vancouver, Canada. The project is part of a five-year promotional deal between ANA and the Walt Disney Company.
This is hardly the first time an airline has made headlines for dolling up its planes. These designs are typically part of publicity partnerships or are created to promote special events or anniversaries. Check out some of the wackiest paint jobs in airline history, below.
Photo: Flickr user Mark Harkin
First on the list is the world’s largest plane decal, which reportedly took more than 400 hours to complete before it was released into the air in 2012. The Lord of the Rings-themed plane didn’t stop at the paint job. Inside, a hobbit-themed safety video featured characters from Middle Earth, while the cabin crew adorned themselves with pointy ears for the plane’s first flight.
Photo: Flickr user Aero Icarus
In 2010, Swiss International instated daily flights between Zurich and San Francisco. To celebrate the new route, the airline decorated a plane with just about every San Francisco stereotype around, from peace signs to flower power.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons via Flickr user Cubbie_n_vegas
Get it? A Boeing 737 becomes a Boeing salmon-thirty-salmon in this 2005 fish-themed paint job. The inspiration for the artwork is a bit unclear: Some sources claim it was designed to celebrate Alaska’s seafood industry, while others believe it stemmed from a 1987 incident in which an Alaska Airlines plane was hit by a fish while taking off in Juneau (The fish was purportedly dropped by an eagle).
A collaboration between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal artists, the design for this Boeing 737-800 was inspired by Uluru, aka Ayers Rock. The Australian World Heritage site is famous for its rich colors, which appear to change as the sun’s angle shifts throughout the day.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
What a magical idea. In partnership with Virgin Holidays, Virgin Atlantic branded one of its 747 jets with the logo for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The paint job functioned as publicity for the Universal Orlando resort.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
To celebrate 20 years of flying between Japan and China, ANA unveiled its panda-themed jet in 2007. It reportedly took 350 people a total of 80 hours to plaster the image of the world’s cutest bear onto the jet.
This article was published on Hipmunk's Tailwind blog by The Hipmunk on January 18th.
Airplane cabins aren’t always known for being roomy, comfy, or luxurious, but the newest crop of first class suites are stunning travelers with their size and opulence. New Yorkers who get by in tiny 100 square foot apartments and Londoners who would pay $145,000 for a shoe box next to Harrod’s may consider moving in when they see how gorgeous and extravagantly large the new cabins seem by comparison. Here’s a roundup of the best and biggest first class cabins that money (or airline miles) can buy.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons via Travelarz
In December 2014, Etihad Airways introduced The Residence on its Airbus A380 planes. The three room suite is a whopping 125 square feet and can be occupied by up to two people traveling together. It includes a living room, a private bathroom, and a bedroom with a bed large enough to share. Etihad hasn’t skimped on the amenities either: It comes with a 32-inch television, a cabinet for chilled drinks, and Christian Lacroix pajamas. The leather on the seats is made by Poltrona Frau, which also makes leather seats for Ferrari and Maserati.
The suite also comes with exceptional service. It includes a luxury chauffeur for transportation to and from the airport, and a Savoy Academy-trained personal butler to meet you and the airport and anticipate your every need. The Residence is available on A380 planes between London and Abu Dhabi, and soon to New York and Sydney, Australia as well. A ticket in The Residence can cost about $20,000 one way. If you’ve always wondered what it would be like to travel like an oil magnate or a Russian oligarch, this is the way to go.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons via Altair78
The Singapore Airlines Suites may only feature one room rather than three, but it’s certainly not much of a step down. Running about $18,000 each way, the Suites were introduced in 2007 and are available only on the Airbus A380. Flights are offered from Singapore to 14 destinations, including New York, London, and Hong Kong, so there’s plenty of opportunity to experience the best of Singapore Airlines.
The cabins are the work of luxury yacht designer Jean-Jacques Coste, and feature a 35-inch wide bed and a 78-inch long bed with cabin doors that can be shut completely. When your partner is in the adjacent cabin, the wall removes so that a double bed can be folded down for some in-flight pillow talk. Each Suite also features a 23-inch LCD screen, Bose headphones, a Ferragamo amenity kit, and Givenchy sleepwear. To complete the perfect in-flight experience, the Book the Cook service allows passengers to order their meals before the flight and choose between Michelin-starred chefs Georges Blanc and Carlo Cracco, among others.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons via Altair78
At around $13,000 one way, the Emirates First Class suites are a bargain compared to the options above, and their most famous feature will seem like a dream come true: an in-flight shower. In a huge improvement on showering over a toilet in your London apartment, each Suites passenger gets 30 minutes in the spa suite with five minutes of hot water conveniently monitored by a light timer. There are two shower spas for the 14 privates suites on each Airbus A380 flight, and the bathrooms also features heated floors and designer towels and toiletries. Imagine being able to freshen up at the end of a long flight, enjoy a shave or a steam, and arrive at your final destination feeling impossibly calm and collected. Now that’s luxurious.
Of course, the cabins in First Class Suites are lovely as well. The seats, which are tablet-operated, fold down to 79-inch beds, and there’s an on-board bar where passengers can mingle with business class passengers over a drink. The cabins also have remote-controlled sliding doors and 23 inch LCD screens for entertainment. Emirates offers chauffeur service to and from the airports in over 70 cities, and flights on the A380 available to over 35 destinations. Maybe it’s time to let go of your lease and take to the skies for luxury and comfort next year.
This article was posted on Hipmunk's Tailwind blog by The Hipmunk on Jnuary 18th.
Emirates Airline recently announced the creation of the world’s longest direct flight, a daunting 17.5 hour trip that will fly from Dubai to Panama City starting February 1st. That long flight time might sound daunting, especially when seated in economy. But a little effort and attention can go a long way in taking a flight from unbearable to relaxing, whether travelers are braving the new route from Dubai to Panama City, or just looking to make a transatlantic or transpacific flight more comfortable. Here’s a step by step guide for making the most of a long plane trip.
First of all, try to avoid economy if at all possible. The seats, the food, and the amenities will all improve, as will the enjoyment factor of the trip. If booking a ticket in first class or business class just isn’t budget-friendly, consider using miles to upgrade. To make the next trip easier and start earning miles for the future, enroll in the airline’s frequent flier program or search out credit cards with airline-redeemable points.
If economy is unavoidable, however, the seat can make all the difference. There are a wide variety of websites where travelers can view seating plans based on flights and carriers, such as SeatGuru, SeatExpert, SeatMaestro, and SeatPlans. Think carefully about what type of seat you want. No one likes the middle seat of course, but also there are other things to keep in mind as well.. Certain travelers may prefer the aisle seat if they like to get up and stretch or use the bathroom frequently, whereas the window seat may be preferable for those trying to sleep on night time flights. To avoid engine noise, try to stay close to the front of the plane.
There may even be some possible seating improvements at the airport itself. Check with the desk attendant at the gate to see if there’s an empty row or set of seats on the plane that could provide more stretching room. Be sure to scope out the seats on the plane itself as well in case someone has missed their flight and there’s a better seat open.
Think of a carry-on bag as the toolbox for hacking a long flight. Packing smart can elevate a trip from boring and uncomfortable to productive and relaxing. Here’s a checklist for the essentials.
First things first: do some seat-side carry-on rearranging. Take out the essentials (headphones, liquids, reading material or devices, socks) and put them in a smaller tote bag or nylon bag to put under the seat. Leave the rest in the carry-on and stow it away. This will allow for much more legroom and better sleep, and the rest of the supplies will still be accessible once the flight begins.
Airplanes can be very cold, so take off your shoes and replace them with a comfy pair of socks. This will also help simulate bed conditions for a restful sleep. Remember to put shoes back on for trips to the bathroom though!
If the flight will cross time zones, the wait for take-off is a great time to set all watches and devices to the destination’s time to help combat jet lag on arrival.
Now for the flight itself. If it’s an overnight trip, try to get to sleep at what would be a normal hour in the arrival timezone to avoid being groggy on landing. For a daytime flight, many travelers find it helpful to break up a long trip into smaller, more manageable chunks. Set a phone or watch alarm to go off at hour or two hour intervals and use those benchmarks to divide the trip. This can make a trip both more productive and keep travelers healthy. When the alarm goes off, take the opportunity to get up and do some stretching, which can prevent stiffness and more serious conditions brought on by long flights. Try twisting, folding over, and rolling the head and neck to stay limber. If there’s work to be done, schedule it for the beginning of the flight, and make time for movies, naps, games, or reading later on.
Not to spoil the party, but it’s best to lay off the alcohol and caffeine on long flights. They’re both dehydrating, and the plane is doing enough of that on its own. Stick to water or drinks with electrolytes, such as Gatorade or coconut water. Remember that hand sanitizer as well those tray tables probably aren’t cleaned with regularity. Armed with the right resources and tools, even 17.5 hours can become bearable. Sit back, relax, and find a little enjoyment between takeoff and landing.
This article was posted on Hipmunk's Tailwind blog by The Hipmunk on November 10th.
Thanks to Amsterdam’s Airport Schiphol, you can now witness this voyage from the comfort of your own home. The airport recently released behind-the-scenes footage that reveals exactly what happens to bags after you hand them over at check-in and hope for the best. Check out the 360-degree video here.
While practices vary by country and airport, here’s a breakdown of the process as it’s commonly implemented in the U.S.:
While missing luggage is at the top of the list of travel nightmares, the good news is that statistically, it’s very rare: There’s only a 1 percent chance your bag won’t arrive at a destination along with you.
What unfortunate circumstances must align for the worst to happen? The explanation could lie with any of a number of factors:
While you may not be able to control everything that happens to a bag after check-in, take these steps to up the chances of luggage finding its way back to you:
If nothing else, perhaps learning about the wild adventures of checked luggage will make us all a little more grateful for the human way of flying. While babies may cry and people may recline their seats into your lap, it still beats sitting in the cargo hold.
This article was posted on Hipmunk's Tailwind blog by The Hipmunk on September 16th.
I had to renew my Passport recently and I started thinking about all the countries I have visited over the years. I realized I had been to quite a lot of places and started feeling very worldly, a seasoned traveler, yes a man of the world. But then I did a little checking and found out I am but a mere speck on the backside of some of the most traveled people in the world.
flickr // Kate B Dixon
There are several travel clubs that track peoples globetrotting but the most revered, yes I am bowing down as I write this, is the Most Traveled Peoples Club. According to their website they have 10,511 active members, of which 248 are under the age of 20 and 65 are over the age of 79. The club was started in 2005 as a community for extreme travelers and the club has since voted on and designated 872 countries, territories, autonomous regions, enclaves, geographically separated island groups and major states and provinces. They even have a theme song which is fittingly "I've Been Everywhere" by Johnny Cash.
The Founder of this club is rightfully so, the most traveled member of the group. Charles Veley, an American, is a recruiter for a software company. He has visited 822 of the recognized destinations and is one of only 90 members to have visited over 400 countries putting him in the clubs Hall of Fame. I felt better when I saw that 1285 of the members were in the Couch Potato classification meaning they have traveled to anywhere from 1 to 24 countries. I have that beat so in the words of Carl Spackler, Bill Murray's character in the movie Caddy Shack, "I've got that going for me."
So if you have the travel bug in you then get after it and get your name in the Hall of Fame and maybe be the "Most Traveled Person in the World.