#Travel140 Travel Tips:
Window, Middle, or Aisle: One seat can help you avoid catching a cold or flu – even Coronavirus -and it comes with a view!
We are window seaters. Whenever possible, we’ll take the view from 35,000 feet. It’s a bit more comfortable for napping, too, since you can lean up against the fuselage. Aside from having to climb over other fliers to get to the loo, if you can stay in your seat there are other benefits to that window seat.
The Healthiest Seat on the Plane
According to a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the window seat could be considered the healthiest on the plane. It all has to do with who’s around you and, in the window seat, you’re only surrounded by passengers on three sides.
The researchers did some mathematical modeling and computer simulations based on how airborne viruses spread. In their simulation, a hypothetical sick person was sat in an aisle seat on the 14th row of a single-aisle plane, with 149 other passengers. In the simulations, only one person got infected.
It makes sense that the people sitting closest to a person with a cold or flu are the most likely to catch it. While you would expect that to be the seats right next to the sick person, it also includes the rows immediately behind and in front of them. So the window seat wins out because it limits the number of people sitting on one side.
Going one step further, a window seat in a bulkhead row is even better. Being in either the first or last row next to a physical barrier on the plane further limits the number of passengers around you. This is important because, according to public health agencies, sitting within two rows of an infectious passenger is a primary risk factor.
Making the Safest Seat Safer
Don’t dismiss your fears about surfaces that are not disinfected between flights. This research focused exclusively on the spread of an airborne virus from person to person. The Coronavirus Pandemic reminded us that germs and viruses can live for quite some time on many of the surfaces we touch.
It quickly became clear that we needed to be more thorough in our cleaning routines. For the airlines, that meant the cursory cleaning of airline cabins between flights had to be more thorough. Deep cleaning, including electrostatic disinfectant fogging, is now routine. Many airlines have partnered with medical institutions and well known brands – such as Clorox – to perfect the art of cleaning and regain customer confidence.
That does not mean you should stop taking your own steps to protect yourself and your family. It doesn’t hurt to wipe down your surroundings with a disinfectant wipe before settling in for your flight. You might even consider something like Seat Sitters’ airline kits, or your own washable seat cover. (We routinely pack a pillow case in our carry-on for this reason.)
It makes sense that you are at least somewhat insulated in a window seat because you have fewer neighbors. Being in an aisle seat, though, may be the most at-risk because of the freedom of movement that comes with it.
According to the researchers, a little more than a third of us on a plane never leave our seat. Another third get up one time during a flight. 13 percent left their seats twice, and 11 percent more than twice. Not surprisingly, most of the movers and shakers had aisle seats: About 80% of people in aisle seats move at least once during their flights.
That movement means you are more likely to be near that sick person back in the hypothetical 14C seat. And if 14C gets up, there’s a chance he’s heading your way. So even if you are several rows away from a sick person, you’re at a (marginally) greater risk of getting sick yourself in an aisle seat.
The down side of a window seat is that it is a pain to excuse yourself and climb over a couple of people to get up and out. Researchers say less than half of the people who choose a window seat get up during their flight. As a result, they are further isolated from someone traveling with a cold or flu. Once again, the window seat sitter is the winner.
A small chance, but a chance none-the-less
So there you have it: You are less likely to catch a cold or flu from your fellow passengers when you’re in a window seat. Conversely, if you’re the one who’s traveling with a cold or flu, you can help keep other passengers from getting sick by choosing a window seat as well. Either way, it’s easy to remember where you want to sit with this little Haiku:
One seat can help you
Avoid catching cold or flu
It comes with a view
More travel tips to help reduce your risk
- Use your air vent to blow air around you down and away.
- As mentioned earlier, use disinfectant wipes on your armrests and tray table.
- Don’t be afraid to cover your seat, especially the headrest, with a sweater, scarf, or pillowcase.
- Face masks are the surest way to ensure you don’t breathe in airborne viruses.
We’re curious about your travel tips! What steps do you take to stay healthy when you fly? Please share your tips. We’ll re-post the best, so be sure to include your Twitter handle and a link to your blog, if you have one. Or click for more #Travel140!