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Five Hidden Hazards of Air Travel

No one expects flying to be all glamour and luxury anymore. But when did it get so bad that it feels like the airlines are actively out to get us? From germ-infested planes to (allegedly) poisoned meals, 2011 has not been a banner year for air travel. Here’s how to beat them at their own game.

Germ Warfare

If you’ve ever seen the passenger next to you sneeze and then shove his used tissue into the seatback pocket (as I have), you can imagine just how dirty airplanes are. From the tray tables to the armrests, it’s not just the airplane bathrooms you should be sanitizing yourself after using. Even just being on the plane can expose you to germs, as we learned during a possible in-flight measles exposure earlier this year. Staying healthy (and bed-bug free) starts in the security line with plastic garment bags, continues with plenty of water and hand sanitizer on the plane, and concludes with booking the cleanest hotel room possible.

Food Poisoning

American Airlines was recently sued after a passenger’s family alleged that he died as a result of a tainted in-flight meal. Stay safe by packing your own food, grabbing something at the gate, or even having food delivered directly to you while you wait.

Cockroaches in the Cabin

This year brought another appetite-suppressing lawsuit, in which a couple sued AirTran for more than $100,000 after allegedly spotting cockroaches crawling out of air vents and baggage compartments on their flight. On the bright side, if you’re unlucky enough to spot gross bugs (or mice, or pythons, or even a cheetah) roaming around your plane, you’ll at least have the chance to join the hallowed American tradition of frivolous lawsuits.

Deep Vein Thrombosis

Airline seats have been getting smaller and smaller while passengers have been getting bigger and bigger. Make sure to educate yourself on what seats are the best on a plane (even in coach), get comfortable with distractions or noise-blockers, and be sure to walk around to prevent DVT on long flights.

Radiation? What Radiation?

In another 2011 travel low point, the European Union banned a type of body scanner that is commonly used in American airports, due to health concerns. Our tip: Know your rights. You can request a pat down instead of a body scan, and you have the right to request a private screening area, as well as to ask for a family member or friend to come with you during the screening.

Readers, do you feel like air travel is out to get you? What are your coping strategies for flying?

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