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Naomi Campbell pointlessly cleans her Qatar business class seat

Naomi Campbell pointlessly cleans her Qatar business class seat

Disease and planes – what a combination, Germophobes will be celebrating Naomi as a clean freak hero. has featured the below Naomi Campbell video, and Ben, a self-admitting selective germophobe, regards here routine as a little extreme.

In this video of her ‘Airport Routine’ released on her YouTube channel, she shows us how she sanitary wipes the entire seating area, covers the seat and then wears a face mask.


Is Naomi right?

Well if you watch this Daily Mail video below – you will think she is – mind you she should be concentrating her sanitation around those security baggage checks – wearing gloves to handle them, and popping the Louis Vuitton handbag in an oversized baggy to stop it being contaminated by shit.

Much more complicated

But as with life – avoiding getting sick on planes is much more complicated than Naomi Campbell or Jeff Rossen think. Mind you, one is a model and the other is a reporter for the Daily Mail – so, taking their advice is like believing in Donald Trump’s tweets.

Germs are good for you

I’m going to put to one side the mounting evidence that being exposed to various germs is what improves and builds our immune system (the hygiene hypothesis, and that the constant use of antibacterials interferes with a healthy immune response, and contributes to the creating of super-bugs for the moment.

Where do I start?

Both videos contain all types of wrongness and bad interpretations of science. Both concentrate on surface germs. But presuming you observe some standard hygiene practices, like washing your hands when you go to the toilet, and before you eat, and you don’t do things like stick your fingers in your mouth, up your nose, or in your eye – this kind of contact transmission is low risk – because it just gets on your skin, and the skin is a pretty good germ barrier.


The major risk in aircraft is airborne nasties, particularly viruses. They get transmitted by people sneezing and coughing, and not containing these explosions.

That’s where those medical masks that Naomi is sporting come into play, except she should be distributing them to all the other passengers and crew.

Those kinds of medical face masks are actually designed predominantly to stop the wearer’s nasty air and droplet bourne germs and viruses being transmitted to others – so they stop nasties getting out, rather than getting in.

In so far as they do stop germs and such getting in – they only have about 45% effectiveness, and that only lasts for roughly 20 minutes or so before they they are compromised, so you would need to be changing your medical-grade face mask every 20 minutes for it to even have the possibility of working.

a group of people in a line
Airport full of germ-filled humans

What are the real risks of flying?

There doesn’t appear to be many conclusive studies in this area. The most alarming study I could find was of flight attendants, published in 2014. It found a higher prevalence of sleep disorders, depression and fatigue, not to mention higher rates of reproductive cancers in female flight attendants, as well as increased rates of chronic bronchitis, heart disease, skin cancer, and hearing loss, than in the general public, once the samples were corrected for other variations.

a seat in a plane
Qantas business class seats, Dreamliner

Not really about germs on seats

Those results are probably more to do with shift work, unsociable hours leading to dislocation from friends and families, and exposure to gamma and other rays received at altitude, rather than some e.coli (shit) on your arm-rest.

2PAXfly Takeout – So what do I do?

I wash my hands a lot on flights. I have some hand sanitiser I use before I dine. I cover my face if I sneeze or cough. I have a saline nose spray I use to try and keep my nose from drying out (there is reported evidence that a dry nose makes you more susceptible to airborne nasties), and an eye-spray for when my eyes get dry on long-haul. I use hand moisturiser and face moisturiser – which is more about my comfort rather than infection prevention.

Finally, I try and travel on the most modern aircraft possible (B787, A380’s, A350 etc), as the increased humidity and cabin pressure make for a less drying and more comfortable flight.

That’s it. What do you do?

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