How to Fly on an Airplane

Summer time means summer vacations. Summer vacations mean a lot of flying.

And with a lot of flying comes a lot of opportunity: both to be productive and to get sick.

A couple years back I talked to one of my good friends Susan Sly, about this very subject. Susan is an expert in balanced living and a renowned author and speaker on the topic of empowerment. She is an entrepreneur that has built a tremendous business in enabling others to reach their goals. And, she knows a lot about the best habits to employ when flying on an airplane.

So, without further ado, here is the list:


Don’t drink the water.

A survey sampling of 327 airplanes found that there was a high amount of E. coli in the on-board drinking water. You have to bring your own water because even coffee and tea has shown traces of E. coli. For safety reasons, the water on a plane won’t be heated enough to kill off the bacteria. So, buy a bottle of water after you go through security. When you’re on board, only drink bottled water- one for every hour that you fly. This will help you be less hungry(see below) and will help you avoid feeling dehydrated when you get off the plane.

Avoid the seat-back pocket.

We’ve all done it- tuck our iPads in the seat-back pocket before we read the Sunday NY Times, or watch a movie. Or, we stick that crossword puzzle in there when we decide to take a nap.


That place is a haven for cold and influenza viruses. The reason: not everyone washes their hands, which is one of the top disease contributors in the entire world.

Wipe down your tray table.

Always bring a pack of anti-bacterial wipes. A staphylococcus lives on these things and kills 20,000 Americans every year. Don’t think, “Hey, Susan- it’s not that manly to be carrying around a pack of wipes.” Trust me; I would be more worried about having a clean place to work over anything else.

Eat your own food.

FDA inspectors went into the kitchens of planes from major airlines and found the Listeria virus as well as swarms of cockroaches. But, forgetting that, even from a general nutrition perspective, airplane food is not good for you. These types of meals are packed with sodium and loaded with preservatives. When I travel I bring a natural protein bar, raw almonds, raw walnuts and even a piece of food. Avoid fast food when waiting at an airport terminal. What’s good is that a lot of larger airports these days offer a variety of food options.

Bring your own blanket.

Many airlines won’t even provide blankets anymore, but if they do, use your own! There’s an Aspergillus niger virus that can cause pneumonia and lives in these blankets. The Wall Street Journal did a study in 2007 that revealed that blankets were only washed once every five to 30 days. How disgusting is that? If you forget a blanket, use your own jacket.

Wash your hands.

Avoid airplane bathrooms at all costs. The CDC found that H1N1 and SARS epidemics may have been perpetuated throughout the United States by airplane bathrooms. Here’s why: when you flush the toilet air sprays up particles from urine, to airplane matter, and germs and other viruses. When someone doesn’t wash their hands, all of that material gets spread throughout the plane. If you’re on a longer flight and you can’t avoid the bathroom, close the toilet lid with a paper towel before flushing and then use hand sanitizer to “wash.” That dirty sink water will do you no good either.


So, there you have it. Those are Susan Sly’s tips on airplane travel. Looking for more travel tips? Check out this recent blog post from another friend, Seth Godin. 

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