The Disgusting Truth About Airplane Pillows And Blankets

The invention of the airplane has exponentially increased the convenience of travel. You can be anywhere in the world within a couple of days. Traveling to Florida to visit your grandparents? Depending where you start, just a couple of hours. Heading to Tokyo for vacation? Again — a trip measured in hours, not days or weeks. Relying on a car or boat takes much longer and often costs more money. No reason to bother when you can hop on a plane and be there in nap’s time.

There are two types of people: those who fly and those who fly but down a bottle of Dramamine or something similar to soothe their anticipated full-blown panic attack. Maybe it’s not the flying that amps up your phobia, but the coughs and sneezes of your fellow passengers. You’ve been called a “germaphobe” before. We know you’re just being careful. Good for you! The World Health Organization doesn’t think it’s likely for you to catch something from somebody clear on the other side of the plane, but those immediately near you could easily cough into your airspace. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says crowded flights, security lines, and terminals are breeding grounds for COVID-19. Better to nestle in all comfy-like and not think about it, right? The cabin crew even provides the pillows and blankets.

In simpler times, comfy bedding for you and the germs

Germs are gross, of course, but “gross” or “disgusting” are really subjective words. Lots of people think Nickelback is disgusting. Plenty of smart people think pickles are gross. Nobody wants to smell your flatulence (or from anybody else, for that matter). But many gross things have a root in sickness. As humans, we think things are disgusting because we believe they’ll pass on disease. That’s why a person who doesn’t wash their hands is considered gross these days when nobody bothered 200 years ago. Here’s the thing: Airplane pillows and blankets could be absolutely disgusting. Worse than Nickelback.

According to a 2010 CNN report, those blankets and pillows weren’t usually washed unless they were visibly dirty. Who knows how many people used it before you got there? On average, as discovered by a Wall Street Journal investigation from 2007, airlines only washed their bedding every 5 to 30 days. But all of that has allegedly changed in recent years, especially in the pandemic era, according to How Stuff Works. Now, most airlines don’t provide pillows and blankets, as Escape reported last March. Germs or no germs, it’s never been a bad idea to bring your own. And while you’re at it, be sure to wear your mask.

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