It is a truth universally acknowledged that somehow, some way, someone on your flight is going to get you sick. The stress of flying, the frustrations of travel, the high-pressure tin can of recycled air — all of it makes for a perfect storm. However, science is on our side and hard at work; someone has figured out the best place to hide from contagion at 39,000 feet.
Ten data scientists took it upon themselves to study five fully booked cross-country round-trip flights during the height of cold and flu season. They carefully monitored and tested both how people moved around and whether their equipment could detect any of 18 respiratory illnesses. It turns out there may actually be a perfect seat on an airplane, and it's the window seat.
Aisle seats are the biggest vectors for disease. If you're sitting across the aisle from someone who's coughing, sniffling, and sneezing, you have a 4 in 5 chance of catching their crud. In fact, just sharing a row with a sick passenger creates an 80 percent chance of picking up their illness; same goes for the row in front and behind. A window seat far away from the sick passenger provides your best insulation, especially if you don't travel through the cabin.
The researchers came to these conclusions through computer modeling, rather than lived experience. As it happened, none of the 10 flights tested positive for the 18 respiratory illnesses, and only one person was observed "coughing moderately." Staying home when you're contagious is still the best possible prevention, whether it's in transit or at the office.