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The Final Verdict on Going Shoeless on Airplanes

Reader's Digest logo Reader's Digest 1/9/2020 Morgan Cutolo

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Flight attendants have seen everything while flying—seriously, these are the secrets they aren’t telling you. So when something grosses them out (e.g. passengers walking around the plane without their shoes on) take it from them—you really shouldn't do it.

"The airlines oftentimes (indirectly) encourage passengers to be more comfortable on long flights by providing socks for first, business, and economy comfort class," says Jacqueline Whitmore, etiquette expert and founder of The Protocol School of Palm Beach. "For safety and sanitary reasons, it’s best not to walk around the aircraft in your bare feet."

Airplane bathrooms might seem like they’re clean, but they’re actually pretty unsanitary. In between flights, the bathrooms are only given a quick spray of disinfectant, a wipe down, and then restocked with toilet paper. The Federal Aviation Administration doesn't regulate aircraft cleaning or do inspections, so the cleanliness of the plane is in the hands of the airline. Since the bathrooms are so small it's easy for bacteria to spread. And we hate to break it to you, but that liquid you see on the floor most likely isn’t water, so you should really be wearing your shoes. You'll also want to avoid touching flush handles, toilet seats, and the door latch without protecting your hand with a paper towel. Make sure you never do these 17 other things on a plane, either.

a close up of a car © Milkovasa/Shutterstock

The bathroom isn't the only reason you should keep your shoes on on a flight. When a passenger gets sick on a plane, the carpet is only spot cleaned. A cleaning crew will take care of those gross spots, but they won’t clean the whole area where germs could have spread.

Taking off your shoes during your flight could also be a potential safety hazard. "Leave shoes on during take-off and landing," says Whimore. "Shoes in the aisle can be a safety hazard in the event of an emergency evacuation."

It’s tempting to kick off your shoes and relax on a flight but it’s best to keep them on."There are no etiquette rules that say you must not take off your shoes during a flight," says Whitmore. "My advice is to know your own body. If you know you have smelly feet, don’t subject them to other passengers on a flight. Or use foot powder inside your shoes." You’ll be a lot cleaner and the people sitting around you will most likely thank you for it, too. Next, read up on these secrets airplane pilots won't tell you.

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