Commercial aircraft cabin with passengers
Credit: Alxey Pnferov/Getty Images

Germs are unavoidable in public spaces. However, travelers can improve their chances of staying healthy just by selecting a specific seat when flying.

According to a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this week, the best way to avoid catching a cold on an airplane is to sit in a window seat — and stay there for the entirety of the flight.

The study concluded that human movement around the airplane cabin spreads germs more so than recirculated air. For this reason, a sick flight attendant is more likely to infect people than a sick passenger.

Researchers also concluded that where you’re sitting on the plane will influence how likely you are to move about the cabin. About 80 percent of people sitting in the aisle seat get up during their flights, and 62 percent of those in the middle seat walked around, but only 43 percent of those in the window seat did so. Passengers who pick the window seat and stay there are the least likely to be exposed to cold or flu viruses.

There is one positive takeaway for germaphobes on a plane: The study concluded that on a flight of about 150 passengers where one passenger is infectiously sick, on average, only one person would leave the flight infected.

Those most likely to get sick are the 11 passengers seated closest the infected one (two to the right, two to the left and the people seated directly in front or behind).

Travelers unlucky enough to be seated near a sick passenger should turn on their overhead air vents to move germs away.