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22 Things You Should Never Do on an Airplane

Traveling is stressful as it is, so let’s not add the burden of getting sick from the flight to your itinerary. Experts reveal where the germs are hiding and how to stay healthy and comfortable while airborne.

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Smooth (air) sailing

Utilizing air travel requires a lot of remembering: Did I pack all the clothes I need? How about my toiletries? Did I bring along my passport? The mental checklists are endless. But here’s one checklist you won’t need to keep track of mentally–as long as you make sure to never do these 22 things on your flight, you should experience smooth sailing (but we can’t always guarantee no turbulence!). Afterwards, read up on the 11 rules the CDC wants you to follow before traveling again to make sure your all of your future trips go as smoothly as possible.

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Don’t line up for the bathroom

While it can be tempting to wait in line outside of the airplane bathroom to make sure nobody cuts in line before you, this is a habit that will have to be kicked in the time of COVID-19. “If passengers brazenly queue up for the bathroom mid-flight, those who are seated near to the toilets will have no choice but to be in close proximity with several people. So, don’t disregard other passengers’ safety just because this system wasn’t a health issue previously,” says Satwinder Singh of Citrus Holidays. When it is your turn to use the restroom, please never do these things in an airplane bathroom.

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Don’t forget to throw an extra hand sanitizer in your bag

Although you can find hand sanitizer both in airports and on airplanes during this time of heightened health risk, it’s important to bring along your own hygienic supplies just in case.”Because aircraft are small enclosed spaces, they have many ‘high touch’ areas,” aviation industry expert Steve Deane of Stratos Jet Charters says. “For example, it’s very common for passengers walking up the aisle to touch the top of every seat along the way to steady themselves.” By sanitizing your hands before and after touching items while on your flight, you can help prevent the spread of COVID-19 to both yourself and others. Don’t forget to bring along some disinfectant wipes, as well. Here are some other ideas of what travel may look like after coronavirus.

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Air hostess serving food and drinks onboardHispanolistic/Getty Images

Don’t expect full services to be running like normal

We’ve all gotten used to the food and drink services found on airplanes, especially on longer transcontinental flights. But due to COVID-19, as a general rule of thumb, you will no longer be able to eat your favorite airline treats onboard. “Airlines are cutting back on both service and crew exposure, so on many flights, there is no meal service and often no drink service,” says Bob Bacheler, managing director of Flying Angels. So what does that mean for you? According to Bacheler, “Make sure to purchase any food items in the terminal before boarding.” Here are 12 photos that show the “new normal” of air travel.

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Don’t neglect to bring multiple masks

While it’s widely known that nowadays you must wear a mask throughout the duration of your flight to ensure the safety of yourself and others, a good tip is to bring multiple masks to wear while in the air. “If you wear a paper or cloth mask, you can expect it to get moist after a few hours. This can make breathing less comfortable,” Bacheler says. Switching your mask every few hours can make your overall flight experience more comfortable while still staying cautious. Here are eight other things you won’t be able to do on airplanes anymore.

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Please! Don’t walk around barefoot

Flight attendants have seen everything from vomit to blood to spilled food hit that carpet. “We see people walking from their seats into the bathrooms all the time barefoot and we cringe because those floors are full of germs,” says Linda Ferguson, a flight attendant for 24 years. “Never walk barefoot into the bathroom or the galley area because sometimes we drop glasses and there could be sharp glass there, too.” Here are more secrets flight attendants won’t tell you.

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Skip the ice in your drink

An EPA study in 2004 found that out of 327 aircraft’s water supplies, only 15 percent passed health standards. Since the 2009 creation of the EPA’s Aircraft Drinking Rule Act, standards have risen and most airplanes don’t serve drinking water from the tap, but their ice cubes, however, are often still made from the same water. “Water tanks on an airplane are old and they’ve tested them and bacteria is in those tanks,” explains Ferguson. “I would definitely drink bottled water—that’s why they hoard tons of bottles on an airplane.” Make sure you never eat these 13 foods on an airplane, too.

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A young woman look out a plane window smilesSDI Productions/Getty Images

Don’t sit in your seat the entire flight

On an airplane, you are at a higher risk to develop deep vein thrombosis (DVT) which is a type of blood clot that usually forms in your legs. DVT has been coined as “economy-class syndrome” and walking around for a few minutes or standing up to stretch are good bets to help prevent it. (Just remember to put your shoes on!) Also, try to avoid tight clothing that could cut off circulation while in flight. “The most important thing is to try to move around and move your legs at least once every hour,” said Catherine Sonquist Forest, MD, a primary care doctor at Stanford University Health Care. “If you can’t get up, you can do exercises in your seat by lifting alternate knees up to your chest and twisting in your chair from side to side.” Check out the very best airplane seats for every type of need.

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Ditch your contact lenses

If you can, opt to wear glasses in flight. The air in the cabin is very dry and can cause irritation to your eyes. Also, if you’re a known sky snoozer, falling asleep in contacts not made for overnight wear can be especially irritating. This tip is especially important in the current health climate created by COVID-19. “Contact lens wearer have a higher risk of transmitting the virus through their eyes,” says Dr. Kevin Lee, an ophthalmologist at Golden Gate Eye Associates. This is extra true if contact lens wearers don’t practice good hygiene, such as not properly cleaning their lenses or not washing their hands before putting the lenses in, among other things. So ditch your contacts for both your comfort and your health on your next flight. And if you’re trying to stay awake, here are 20 travel cartoons that find the funny in everything.

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Airplane cabin interior detailno_limit_pictures/Getty Images

Don’t turn off the air vent over your seat

If the air blowing makes you chilly, it might be smarter to throw on a sweatshirt rather than turn off the vent. Doctors recommend that the adjustable air over your seat should be set to medium or high in flight so that any airborne germs can be blown away before they enter your personal zone. These are the 7 hidden airplane features you had no idea existed.

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Don’t eat food after it’s fallen on the tray table

Yuck! That tray table doesn’t get sterilized between flights, so unless you’ve brought your own disinfectant or placemat, let that cookie crumb go if it hits the tray and not your plate. “The tray table is notorious,” says Stephen Morse, professor of epidemiology at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. Ferguson adds that tray tables are usually only wiped down once a day, when the plane goes into an overnight station. “Those tray tables are used for all kinds of things,” says Ferguson. “During flights, I’ve seen parents changing babies on top of tray tables. I’ve seen people put their bare feet on top of tray tables.” One study found that trays harbor an average of 2,155 colony-forming units of bacteria per square inch. Compare that with the 265 units on the lavatory flush button. And while all samples tested negative for potentially infectious bacteria such as E. coli, you’ll still want to steer clear of that tray. An extra safety tip in the time of COVID-19: Wipe down your tray table and any other surfaces with disinfectant wipes before using. And if you’re curious to know more, this is what it’s really like to fly during coronavirus, from the perspective of a flight attendant.

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Don’t use the blankets

Another airplane item that doesn’t get a thorough cleaning between flights? Yup, those blankets and pillows offered in the seatback are recycled flight to flight and usually don’t get properly washed until the day is over. Items like pillows and blankets are ideal places for germs and lice to camp out and spread from person to person. “I see people wrap their feet in the blankets, I see people sneeze in the blankets,” Ferguson adds. Make sure you know the 11 things you can still get for free on an airplane.

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Airplane tray table with a cup of waterWicki58/Getty Images

Don’t forget to stay hydrated

Parched throat mid-flight? Don’t just blame the salty snacks. Airplane cabins are known for their low humidity because the manufactured air in the cabin is made to mimic the highest altitude humans can breathe at, usually between 6,000 and 8,000 feet, according to the World Health Organization. “For every leg of flight, each flight attendant will try to drink a full 16 oz. of water,” says Ferguson. “That’s the most important. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.” Staying hydrated is especially important in order to avoid COVID-19. “Your mucous membranes dry out in flight, especially in flights over two hours, because of the pressurized cabin,” explains Dr. Bita Nasseri, a physician based out of Beverly Hills. “Your mucous membranes function much more efficiently and effectively when moist and can better repel any viral or bacterial infection.” So keep drinking! These are 13 new rules you’ll have to follow next time you fly.

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Opt out of coffee or tea

You don’t want to drink anything that could possibly be made with the tap water from the plane. Even though the water for tea and coffee is usually boiled, if you can opt for bottled water or another beverage from a sealed container you should. Another reason to avoid coffee and tea: Caffeinated beverages aren’t your best bet while flying. “Caffeine slightly dehydrates you,” Dr. Forest says. “It’s not a huge problem to drink caffeine but include water also.” Read these 12 rules to ensure a stress-free air travel experience.

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Rich, fashionable afro-american woman looking the window of a private airplane while drinking white wine from a fluteEXTREME-PHOTOGRAPHER/Getty Images

Don’t booze too much

While a nice glass of wine can take some of the edge off of traveling, alcohol is extremely dehydrating. Combine that with the low humidity of the plane and your body’s in for a drying experience. In addition, the thin-air of a plane makes the effects of alcohol hit you faster, and harder. Not to mention that excessive drinking lowers your immune system in general, so this tip goes for pre-flight rituals at the airport bar as well. “One drink in the air is like drinking two on the ground—it can affect you faster,” says Ferguson. “We’ve been known to water down drinks a lot or if someone just keeps wanting glasses of wine, we’ll pour half a glass instead of a whole glass.” Don’t miss the craziest requests people have made on airplanes.

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Don’t touch the flush button in the bathroom

Like other public spaces on the plane, the bathroom is also a major place where germs hide out. To protect yourself, wash your hands thoroughly and use a paper towel to press the flush button and open the door. “When you go to the bathroom, the right thing to do is always wash your hands, dry your hands with a towel, and then use the towel to turn off the water and even open up the door,” says Dr. Forest. “You don’t want to not flush the toilet, everyone should flush the toilet, but wash your hands with soapy water and use a towel.” Find out more airplane trivia you’ve always wanted to know.

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Don’t fall asleep against the window

You’re not the only one who has had their head pressed against that wall. Who knows who else has breathed, sneezed, coughed against that glass you doze off against while your head’s in the clouds? “I see plenty of people carry Lysol wipes with them that will wipe the area around their seat,” says Ferguson. “If there was a backlight and they could light up a plane with all the germs, I think it would petrify everybody. My rule of thumb, and I never get sick, is I never put my hands in my mouth or near my face.” Seasoned travelers share their 14 secrets to sleeping soundly on an airplane.

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Don’t wear shorts

If you can, try to wear clothing that covers skin that could touch your seat. Like other parts of the plane, the seats aren’t cleaned between flights and could be places where germs hide. “I think you have to assume that most surfaces in an airplane are probably no cleaner than, and in most cases not as clean, as any other similar public space simply because they’re not cleaned as often and people are in very tight quarters,” says Morse. “All the normal things we usually deal with, we don’t normally think about when we sit down in shorts in a seat that’s been used by many other people.” Don’t miss these other secrets airlines don’t want you to know.

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Don’t feel embarrassed to tell a flight attendant you’re not feeling well

Never think your health and safety is an inconvenience to what may seem like an already stressed flight crew. Flight attendants are trained to help with medical emergencies, even learning how to properly handle a childbirth before becoming certified. “Flight attendants are completely trained,” explains Ferguson. “If you’re not feeling well definitely speak up. You don’t want to be sick on a plane—that’s the worst.” Here’s another aviation secret: planes are forbidden from flying over these places.

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Don’t get stuck with the middle seat

More than half of Americans would rather go to the dentist than get stuck between two of their fellow fliers, according to a 2009 survey by the Global Strategy Group. Alas, sometimes the middle is all that’s left. Boost your chance of escaping it by setting a free alert on expertflyer.com. You select the type of seat you prefer (window or aisle) and your flight number. When a seat that meets your needs opens up, you’ll get an email. Then you can go to the airline’s website and change your assignment. Here are the real reasons behind those weird airplane safety rules.

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Don’t skip your A.M. skin care

Just because you’ll be inside doesn’t mean you can skip sunblock. One small study found that pilots flying for an hour got the same amount of radiation as if they had spent 20 minutes in a tanning bed. You’ll also want to moisturize to prevent parched and itchy skin—an airplane’s pressurized air is notoriously dry. Here are more secrets your airplane pilot won’t tell you.

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Don’t fall asleep before takeoff

If you do, it will be harder for you to equalize the pressure in your ears (which you’ll do more quickly if you chew gum or yawn). If you’re prone to flight-induced headaches, hold off on your snooze until your ears pop. Follow these 16 other air travel trips to ensure smooth flying.

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Drinking Glass By Airplane WindowDong Wenjie/Getty Images

Don’t guzzle a soda

An increase in altitude may cause intestinal gas to expand up to 30 percent, so you might want to avoid consuming carbonated drinks in the clouds. Keep your stomach settled with bottled water. Next, read up on the 20 common airplane myths you need to stop falling for.