Ryanair named filthiest airline by Which?

Ryanair planes are voted the filthiest in the UK with passengers forced to endure soiled seats and greasy tray tables, survey reveals

  • Only 42 per cent of travellers rated hygiene on board Ryanair flights positively 
  • Greasy tray tables, soiled seats and headrests were some of Which?’s findings
  • Three out of four British Airways customers rated it good, very good or excellent

Ryanair has been named the filthiest flight operator in the UK, with fewer than half of passengers rating the airline as good for cleanliness, according to a Which? Travel survey.

In a poll of almost 8,000 passengers, the consumer champion found that on average eight in 10 (81 per cent) passengers rated cleanliness positively across 42 airlines.

However, this went down to less than half (42 per cent) for those who flew with Ryanair, suggesting huge discrepancies in the level of cleanliness on board.

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Ryanair has been named and shamed in a survey by Which? Travel that found customers rated it the worst for onboard hygiene (stock image)

Dirty sponges

In fact, a quarter (24 per cent) of Ryanair passengers went as far as to say that cleanliness on flights was poor.   

Which? sent an investigator on a Ryanair flight to check out its standards – and filmed the experience.

On taking her seat, the Which? researcher inspects the tray table, and wipes the back of the seat in front of her with a sponge, remarking that ‘the dirt and grime are clear to see’.

The wipe she uses comes up visibly soiled and the researcher pops it into a carefully labelled plastic bag as evidence. 

She then flashes the tray table with an ultraviolet light that shows stains not visible to the naked eye – such as bodily fluids. 

A Which? investigator checked out the cleanliness on a Ryanair flight and found greasy tray tables, soiled seats and stains that only showed up when flashed with an ultraviolet light

The headrest was found to be the filthiest part of the Which investigator’s seat

The airlines’ ‘poor’ hygiene ratings revealed 

Air New Zealand 0%

Cathay Pacific 0%

Emirates 0%

Qatar Airways 0%

Swiss 1%

Virgin Atlantic 1%

Air France 2%

SingaporeAirlines 2%

Aer Lingus 3%

Norwegian 3%

United Airlines 3%

Etihad Airways 4%

FlyBe 4%

Jet2.com 4%

American Airlines 5%

British Airways 6%

Iberia 6%

Thomson/ TUI Airways 7%

Easyjet 8%

Vueling Airlines 10%

Wizz Air 10%

Ryanair 24%

The percentages refer to the number of people that rated that particular airline ‘poor’ for hygiene 

To see the full results, visit Which?.

While Ryanair was not the only airline with passengers reporting dubious hygiene, it was significantly worse than the other airlines included in the study.

Many passengers who flew with WizzAir were also less than impressed with the cleaning. Only six in 10 (62 per cent) found the cleanliness to be good and it was barely any better for those who chose to fly with Vueling or Iberia (63 per cent).

In fact, when it came to WizzAir and Vueling one in 10 passengers (10 per cent) rated the cleanliness of the cabin as ‘poor’.

Meanwhile, two thirds (68 per cent) of easyJet passengers rated the cleanliness as ‘good’, ‘very good’ or ‘excellent’.

This went up to three in four (78 per cent) passengers for those who flew British Airways.

Almost all passengers who flew with Air New Zealand (97 per cent), Singapore Airlines (96 per cent), Emirates (95 per cent), Qatar Airways (95 per cent), Cathay Pacific (94 per cent) and Swiss (94 per cent) told Which? that they found the cleanliness on board to be good. 

Last year, research conducted by Marketplace, a Canadian TV show, revealed the grim reality of the various types of bacteria, mould and yeast planes can play host to.

After analysing more than 100 samples collected on 18 domestic Canadian flights operated by three local airlines (Air Canada, WestJet and Porter), scientists found that headrests were the most contaminated place on a plane.

Three out of four British Airways passengers were happy with the onboard hygiene


While you’ll never be able to completely germ-proof your flight, there are steps you can take to protect yourself. Which? recommends:

· Use the overhead fans to help you breathe in air directly from above, rather than from the people coughing and sneezing around you.

· Avoid aisle seats – they are often grimier than other seats as people touch them when walking by.

· Use nasal spray before the flight to help block out airborne viruses before they get a chance to infect you. 

· Wash your hands regularly with soap and warm water.

· Dispose of tissues after blowing your nose. 

· Keep any cuts or grazes covered.

The most damning findings were headrests contaminated with staphylococcus and E. coli and seat-back pockets found to contain coliform bacteria – found in human faeces.

Rory Boland, Travel Editor at Which?, said: ‘Faster and faster turnarounds are one thing but it is unacceptable for some airlines to be cutting corners when it comes to cleaning out their cabins properly – no matter how cheap the airline ticket.

‘There are steps you can take; either choose your next flight on an airline that has a good track record for cleanliness or equip yourself with some antibacterial wipes. If you are flying Ryanair though, a biohazard suit might be more appropriate.’ 

Which? surveyed 7,901 members of its online panel in September and October 2018 which resulted in 12,459 experiences, of which 10,474 were economy flights.  

Ryanair was offered a right to reply by both Which? and MailOnline Travel but no response was forthcoming.

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