Is it okay to go barefoot on a plane?

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According to Reader’s Digest, flight attendants can’t help but cringe when they see passengers walk barefoot on a flight. Yet, some Conde Nast Traveler editors argue you need to let your feet loose. Which side are you on?

Etiquette expert and founder of The Protocol School of Palm Beach says while flight crew indirectly encourage passengers to be more comfortable on long haul flights by providing socks to first, business and economy class passengers, there is an underlying reason for what passengers might perceive as a kind gesture.

“For safety and sanitary reasons, it’s best not to walk around the aircraft in your bare feet,” she says.

According to Reader’s Digest, an airplane bathroom is not necessarily as sanitary as one would wish. Between flights, it often only gets a disinfecting spray and a wipe down – no deep cleaning. Carpets on planes are also only spot cleaned between flights, which means walking on them barefoot is not always such a great idea.

Pilot Patrick Smith also told Travel & Leisure that while cabins are cleaned prior to every flight, it is more perfunctory on a quick turn when there are only 15 to 20 minutes to get it done. While planes do go through deep cleaning, it’s not that often. According to Travel & Leisure, the frequency differs by airline, but deep cleans typically seem to happen only every four to six weeks.

Taking off your shoes on a flight could also pose as a safety hazard, especially during take-off and landing. Former flight attendant Tony Kuna explained on Quora that not wearing shoes on a flight could end in disaster if there is an in-flight emergency.

“During an emergency, all kinds of debris and unpleasant ground surfaces will block your way towards the exit, as well as outside the aircraft,” he says. “Imagine destroying your bare feet as you run down the aisle covered with broken glass, fires and metal shards.” 

Rather keep your shoes on. Image: iStock

Some people are keen on letting their feet loose on a plane, though. Conde Nast Traveler’s Laura Dannen Redman is all for taking off your shoes on a plane, considering how much the pressure changes can make one’s toes and ankles swell.

She says: “It’s the tiniest bit of relief in an already taxing environment.” But, she adds that she is definitely not pro bare feet on a flight. “That’s just anarchy.” 

READ: These are the longest non-stop flights in the world

Katherine LaGrave, also from Conde Nast Traveler, has done a lot of writing specifically on germs on trains, planes and in hotels and says taking off your shoes on a plane doesn’t just expose you to germs, but you also spread them. Her colleague, Caitlen Moscatello, says you should prepare according to your travels.

“Before you leave for the airport, you know very well that you’re getting on a plane. So, prepare accordingly by wearing comfortable shoes.” 

While we all tend to kick off our shoes once we relax, it is only kind to be considerate of other passengers too. If you know you are prone to smelly feet, just don’t do it!



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