In the past couple of months American Airlines has reportedly received numerous complaints about bed bug infestations on board their aircraft that have bitten many passengers and crew.
American Airlines has acknowledged the matter in internal memos and taken measures to sanitize the aircraft, especially the crew bunks where most complaints stem from.
Bed bugs are a nasty pest to deal with and one of the most difficult to get rid of as regular pesticides aren’t enough to exterminate them. It usually requires heat. On top of that an aircraft and very small space usually limits what can be done especially without taking the plane out of service for too long.
Reports about bed bugs on aircraft have been few and far in between. LoyaltyLobby wrote early 2016 about a case involving British Airways (see here).
This week I came across an article the guys at The Savvy Stews had (access their site here). The site is run by two ex Flight Attendants who likely still have a good network through their former colleagues at American.
A growing number bed bug infestations are occurring on American’s 777 and 787 aircraft and flight attendants at the airline are not having it — they say this issue has been festering for too long and American’s approach to dealing with it has been extremely negligent.
On recent long-haul flights, crew-members have woken from rest breaks to find they’ve been ravaged by blood thirsty bed bugs; their skin covered with painful bed bug bites. Some of the attacks and contact with insecticides have been so severe that hospitalization has been required.
Reports from flight attendants to American’s Flight Service department as well as maintenance write ups haven’t resolved the matter and it only continues to get worse as bed bugs crawl the AA fleet. Just one of the infested aircraft flew to Sydney, London, Hong Kong, Sao Paulo, Los Angeles, Miami and Dallas in just over 3 days with extermination being attempted in between flights. …
American management has done everything possible to keep the affected aircraft flying full schedules while carrying out the extermination process. Although they’ve been routinely placing the bunk areas “out-of-service” while the insecticide kills the bed bugs, the chemicals eventually dry into a fine powder which becomes airborne, possibly circulating through the aircraft’s ventilation system as well as making direct contact with the skin.
Hector Adler, American’s VP of Flight Service, said in his email to flight attendants this week:
“We are working with our Safety department, airport teams, and the APFA to determine what is causing a skin reaction that some crewmembers have experienced after using the crew bunks on some of our 777 and 787 aircraft. As a preliminary measure, we are immediately cleaning and sanitizing these aircraft, and taking immediate and extraordinary steps to resolve this matter as quickly as possible.” …
Flight Attendant Union APFA released a statement containing:
“We received countless reports this week from concerned Flight Attendants who have experienced various health issues after using crew bunks on our widebody fleet.
APFA immediately consulted with the American Airlines Safety, Security and Environmental Programs department to take the first steps in identifying and resolving the issues. Initially, and moving forward, we will be looking very closely at cabin cleaning products and disinfection procedures used on our aircraft…”
Now let’s keep in mind this is a one sided report from the flight attendants and the reactions to it from management but there is no denying the problem is there. Otherwise American wouldn’t take measures which however don’t seem to be very efficient given the outlined procedure.
On top of that i did a little google search and fount a Tripadvisor post (see here) of a customer who was also bitten by bedbugs on board American Airlines – a short haul flight nevertheless.
It’s hard to say how widespread this problem really is. Without question is that airlines need to do something about it because exposing passengers and staff to pests which they may end up taking home is completely unacceptable.
I believe this matter needs to gather some more exposure to bring carrier to the point of racking up their lackluster efforts and really take this serious.
A public transportation vehicle such as a train or an aircraft can’t be kept sterile, that’s simply not possible and would be stupid to ask for. Consider that you have 300 people on board the aircraft coming from all different parts of the world and in constant rotation. We get exposed to insects on a daily basis, some we see and some we don’t see which might be then carried around. These are the (disgusting) realities airlines as well as passengers have to deal with and the sooner some mechanism is designed to purge and remove bedbugs from the aircraft the better it is.