British Airways Flight #282

LAX-LHR on January 28, 2011

The one in which I discovered bugs crawling literally all over me, multiple generations of bugs were found to be infesting my seat and headrest, and, to top it off, I was berated by the unapologetic purser.

British Airways has since publicly acknowledged that their aircraft was in fact infested! (According to the Daily Mail’s article.)


For the whole story, read on!
Or, scroll down to comment, share on Facebook above, or check out part 2 here!


I was seated in 15K, in World Traveller Plus (aka Premium Economy).

Shortly before take-off, I noticed a single bug scamper across the top of the seat in front of me. While I was vaguely curious about what it was, by the time I could lean over to investigate it had slipped over the headrest and into the (occupied) seat in front of me. I figured it was a (gross) anomaly.

Roughly three hours into the flight, mid-way through a movie (BA does get credit for good in-flight entertainment options), I reached forward to adjust something on-screen. Just before tapping the option on the screen, I saw the silhouette of a very familiar bug crawling on my finger. Totally disgusted, I shook my hand off vigorously towards the window, which I immediately regretted because I had shaken also in the direction of my bag. My neighbor in the seat next to me gave me a funny look but minded his own business, while I told myself it must have been the same bug I’d seen earlier, and tried to relax.

30 minutes or so later, my brain was still stuck with the bug. I’m one to freak myself out in the dark, and with the cabin lights dimmed my imagination was running wild. I felt like I was seeing spots on the arms of my shirt and blanket over my lap, so to calm my nerves I decided to switch on the light over my seat. Unfortunately, my imagination had not been running wild.

There was a familiarly-shaped bug in the middle of the blanket in my lap, running quickly away from the light. At this point my neighbor was fully involved, and helped me trap the bug inside the blanket. I’m not quite sure why, but he then disposed of the blanket by dumping it in the aisle. I figured it was far enough away from me, and hopefully had been squished somewhere along the way.

While my adrenaline was now through the roof, I told myself that the one bug would certainly not come all the way back to “get me” at my seat, and tried once again to chill out. Not wanting to disturb my neighbor further, I waited until both my and his movies had ended to slide past him to pull myself together with a cup of water and a bathroom break.

At some point in the lavatory I looked in the mirror. It took a minute to see that there were small bugs – much smaller and lighter in color than the one on my blanket had been – crawling around on my white shirt. I took a somewhat more measured approach to their removal this time, pulling them off carefully one by one with paper towels. There were at least four live ones on my shirt, another two crushed on my shoulder, and a blood stain on the back of my shirt where I must have leaned back on a full-size (and full-stomached) one.

When I came out of the bathroom I was so shaken up I wasn’t sure what to do. My neighbor was outside and could tell that something was wrong, and managed to get the story out of me. As I’m not one generally to complain, he had to encourage me to tell the flight attendant. I told the one-sentence version to the first BA person I saw, who told me to talk to the purser. The purser listened to my story, and showing no emotional reaction (nor apologizing in any way), followed me back to my seat.

Back at our row he started looking around. There was nothing immediately obviously wrong, and I was already feeling a bit silly. After seeing nothing on the outside of the seat initially, he reached his hand beneath my headrest to see what he could find. When his hand reappeared, there were several squished bugs easily visible on it.

He moved quickly to the front of the plane (disappearing behind a curtain), leaving me and my seatmate standing in the aisle, wondering what to do next. In a bit he returned, and immediately said to me in an accusatory tone, “why didn’t you tell me about this earlier?” Too shaky and dumbfounded to reply, I said nothing. A flashlight and some more flight attendants then showed up, although what more evidence they needed to get me and my seat mate outta there, I’m not quite sure.

Over the next 10 minutes or so, there was one additional accusation lobbed my way along the lines of the first, and literally no other interaction with me or my neighbor – no positive support, friendly words, or offers of help (although the initial accusation was directed our way once again – as though this was all our fault). After being otherwise totally ignored while the flight attendants continued to pull apart our seats and collect samples, I finally asked if we could possibly have somewhere else to sit. He glanced around and saw two empty seats one row back along the other aisle, and nodded in their direction. Having learned by this time that the bugs may in fact follow me across an aisle, I asked if there was anything up front – Hoping both for comfort, as well as at least minimal peace of mind that I’d be somewhat farther away from the center of the action.

We were told in no uncertain terms that the purser would get in BIG trouble if he allowed us to move up, and that that would be completely impossible. (No apology.) At this point my neighbor stepped in, raising his voice (which I couldn’t make myself muster), and said loudly “we spent $1300 on these seats and…” and that was all it took. “Please sir, lower your voice” (yes, that’s actually what he said first – still no apology,) “let me see what I can do.” Given that there were only a handful of seats occupied in the entire business cabin – the rest being empty – they ‘somehow’ managed to squeeze us in.

loading-screen

British Airways

The powers of irony were in full force in our new seats: After sitting for a long time in somewhat of a daze while my adrenaline slowly drained back to normal, I decided to try the entertainment system again to distract me. The calming imagery chosen by British Airways for the loading screen? Bugs. Crawling around. No joke.

The rest of the flight was quite comfortable. The flight attendant who was writing down the information in the official report was incredibly nice and very apologetic. She was understanding and friendly, although as nice as she was, was certainly more concerned about us than for us. We overheard a conversation with what sounded like the cockpit, where the flight attendant reassured that we were “cool” and wouldn’t be too much trouble.

We were offered a leftover bottle of champagne to take with us after the flight, and were assured that they would do the best to upgrade the remainder of our respective itineraries. My next flight was in fact upgraded, which I was incredibly grateful for. The rest of my itinerary was not.

Until a bit later, it was only a fear of mine that the bugs crawling on me and infesting my headrest and seat were actually bedbugs. After a friend pulled up some pictures on his phone of bedbugs during our layover, I was quite sure that that, in fact, was what they had been.

The story does not end quite there, or quite so well. And so we find ourselves faced with flight 2.

Comments

  1. Jodie Canbridge says:

    One thing Qantas used to do on landing from an overseas destination was to walk through the cabin with two aerosol insecticides operating to debug the cabin and people before they got off. They suspended it because people didn’t like being treated like rodents when arriving in Australia. Maybe airlines should renew this exercise. It was a harmless pleasant smelling spray. Just enough to knock out any would be bugs that might like to stay in Australia. I guess this was done for two reasons. Qantas knew that some overseas passengers only showered once a week whether they needed it or not and they used to like to hear the whining after the engines were turned off.

    • Craig Johnson says:

      They still do the spray thing when ariving in Australia – at least they did when I arrived back on a Qatar flight just before Christmas.

      Maybe it depends on where you are coming from?

      • Timothy Pippett says:

        Qantas flights no longer spray the aircraft as they are regularly fumigated whereas most other companies flying into Australia need to do the spraying.

    • Borman says:

      Would then rather see them doing that at the start of the trip.

      • Jodie Canbridge says:

        yeah that would be smart. Spray everyone so that they can suck it in all flight. get in the food as well. Dope. THE REASON it’s done last is that’s the last thing they do. Would you rather they filled the babies up with insecticide? Your wine? Birdbrain. Oh that’s right. You’ve never been on a plane. Speaking from experience? Nope. BORINGMAN. Just a baggage handlers assistant.

  2. Jodie Canbridge says:

    Apparently, after every flight, Qantas pilots fill out a form, called a ‘gripe sheet’, which tells mechanics about problems with the aircraft. The mechanics correct the problems; document their repairs on the form, and then pilots review the gripe sheets before the next flight.

    Never let it be said that ground crews lack a sense of humour. Here are some actual maintenance complaints submitted by Qantas’ Pilots and the solutions recorded by maintenance engineers.

    Pilots: Left inside main tire almost needs replacement.
    Engineers: Almost replaced left inside main tire.

    Pilots: Test flight OK, except auto-land very rough.
    Engineers: Auto-land not installed on this aircraft.

    Pilots: Something loose in cockpit.
    Engineers: Something tightened in cockpit.

    Pilots: Dead bugs on windshield.
    Engineers: Live bugs on back-order. (for seat 15)

    Pilots: Autopilot in altitude-hold mode produces a 200 feet per minute descent.
    Engineers: Cannot reproduce problem on ground.

    Pilots: Evidence of leak on right main landing gear.
    Engineers: Evidence removed.

    Pilots: Friction locks cause throttle levers to stick.
    Engineers: That’s what they’re for.

    Pilots: Suspected crack in windshield.
    Engineers: Suspect you’re right.

    »More Exchanges Between Qantas Pilots and Their Engineers
    Pilots: Number 3 engine missing.
    Engineers: Engine found on right wing after brief search.

    Pilots: Aircraft handles funny.
    Engineers: Aircraft warned to straighten up, fly right, and be serious.

    Pilots: Target radar hums
    Engineers: Reprogrammed target radar with lyrics.

    Pilots: Mouse in cockpit.
    Engineers: Cat installed.

    And perhaps, the best Qantas joke…

    Qantas Pilot: Noise coming from under instrument panel. Sounds like a midget pounding on something with a hammer.
    Engineers: Took hammer away from midget

  3. Jodie Canbridge says:

    And for those who think you are hard done by or don’t want to pay for, or have an experience with bed bugs, here is a pilot’s account of just how much room “they get”

    The following letter was written by a retired Qantas pilot to his former colleagues:

    Dear All,

    Please find enclosed a home study simulator course [HSSC] for those of you who still hunger for the romance and adventure of airline travel.

    If you follow all the steps in this HSSC you will experience that ‘Romance and Adventure.’

    1] Do not go to bed

    2] Sit in your most uncomfortable chair, preferably in a cupboard, for 9 or 10 hours facing a 4 foot wide panoramic photo of a flight deck

    3] Have two or three noisy vacuum cleaners on high, out of sight but within hearing distance and operating throughout the night. If a vacuum cleaner fails, do the appropriate restart checklist

    4] Halfway through your nocturnal simulator course, arrange for a bright spotlight to shine directly into your face for two or three hours, simulating flying eastbound into the sunrise

    5] Have bland overcooked food served on a tray halfway through the night

    6] Have cold cups of coffee delivered from time to time, and ask your spouse to slam the door frequently

    7] At the time when you must heed nature’s call, force yourself to stand outside the bathroom door for at least ten minutes, transferring your weight from leg to leg, teasing the discomfort. Don’t forget to wear your hat.

    8] Leave the cupboard after the prescribed nine or ten hours and turn on your sprinklers in the garden and stand out in the cold and “rain”, for twenty minutes, simulating the wait for the crew car

    9] Head for your bedroom, wet through and with your suitcase and flight bag. Stand outside the door till your wife gets up and leaves, simulating the wait while the maid makes up the hotel room

    10] When your spouse inquires, ‘Just what in the hell have you been doing?’ just say, ‘Recalling the allure of all night flying to romantic places.’ as you collapse into bed

    11] If you are a purist, make this a two-day trip instead of a turn-around, so do this two nights in a row. Above all ‘Enjoy Yourselves.’

    Regards…………………..Jim Retired.

  4. Jodie Canbridge says:

    And the Pièce de résistance ironically from a flyer also travelling betwwen India and the UK.
    A complaint letter written to Richard Branson;
    Dear Mr Branson

    REF: Mumbai to Heathrow 7th December 2008

    I love the Virgin brand, I really do which is why I continue to use it despite a series of unfortunate incidents over the last few years. This latest incident takes the biscuit.

    Ironically, by the end of the flight I would have gladly paid over a thousand rupees for a single biscuit following the culinary journey of hell I was subjected to at the hands of your corporation

    Look at this Richard. Just look at it:

    I imagine the same questions are racing through your brilliant mind as were racing through mine on that fateful day. What is this? Why have I been given it? What have I done to deserve this? And, which one is the starter, which one is the desert?

    You don’t get to a position like yours Richard with anything less than a generous sprinkling of observational power so I KNOW you will have spotted the tomato next to the two yellow shafts of sponge on the left. Yes, it’s next to the sponge shaft without the green paste. That’s got to be the clue hasn’t it. No sane person would serve a desert with a tomato would they. Well answer me this Richard, what sort of animal would serve a desert with peas in:

    I know it looks like a baaji but it’s in custard Richard, custard. It must be the pudding. Well you’ll be fascinated to hear that it wasn’t custard. It was a sour gel with a clear oil on top. It’s only redeeming feature was that it managed to be so alien to my palette that it took away the taste of the curry emanating from our miscellaneous central cuboid of beige matter. Perhaps the meal on the left might be the desert after all.

    Anyway, this is all irrelevant at the moment. I was raised strictly but neatly by my parents and if they knew I had started desert before the main course, a sponge shaft would be the least of my worries. So lets peel back the tin-foil on the main dish and see what’s on offer.

    I’ll try and explain how this felt. Imagine being a twelve year old boy Richard. Now imagine it’s Christmas morning and you’ve sat there with your final present to open. It’s a big one, and you know what it is. It’s that Goodmans stereo you picked out the catalogue and wrote to Santa about.

    Only you open the present and it’s not in there. It’s your hamster Richard. It’s your hamster in the box and it’s not breathing. That’s how I felt when I peeled back the foil and saw this:

    Now I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking it’s more of that Baaji custard. I admit I thought the same too, but no. It’s mustard Richard. MUSTARD. More mustard than any man could consume in a month. On the left we have a piece of broccoli and some peppers in a brown glue-like oil and on the right the chef had prepared some mashed potato. The potato masher had obviously broken and so it was decided the next best thing would be to pass the potatoes through the digestive tract of a bird.

    Once it was regurgitated it was clearly then blended and mixed with a bit of mustard. Everybody likes a bit of mustard Richard.

    By now I was actually starting to feel a little hypoglycaemic. I needed a sugar hit. Luckily there was a small cookie provided. It had caught my eye earlier due to it’s baffling presentation:

    It appears to be in an evidence bag from the scene of a crime. A CRIME AGAINST BLOODY COOKING. Either that or some sort of back-street underground cookie, purchased off a gun-toting maniac high on his own supply of yeast. You certainly wouldn’t want to be caught carrying one of these through customs. Imagine biting into a piece of brass Richard. That would be softer on the teeth than the specimen above.

    I was exhausted. All I wanted to do was relax but obviously I had to sit with that mess in front of me for half an hour. I swear the sponge shafts moved at one point.

    Once cleared, I decided to relax with a bit of your world-famous onboard entertainment. I switched it on:
    I apologise for the quality of the photo, it’s just it was incredibly hard to capture Boris Johnson’s face through the flickering white lines running up and down the screen. Perhaps it would be better on another channel:

    Is that Ray Liotta? A question I found myself asking over and over again throughout the gruelling half-hour I attempted to watch the film like this. After that I switched off. I’d had enough. I was the hungriest I’d been in my adult life and I had a splitting headache from squinting at a crackling screen.

    My only option was to simply stare at the seat in front and wait for either food, or sleep. Neither came for an incredibly long time. But when it did it surpassed my wildest expectations:
    Yes! It’s another crime-scene cookie. Only this time you dunk it in the white stuff.

    Richard…. What is that white stuff? It looked like it was going to be yoghurt. It finally dawned on me what it was after staring at it. It was a mixture between the Baaji custard and the Mustard sauce. It reminded me of my first week at university. I had overheard that you could make a drink by mixing vodka and refreshers. I lied to my new friends and told them I’d done it loads of times. When I attempted to make the drink in a big bowl it formed a cheese Richard, a cheese. That cheese looked a lot like your baaji-mustard.

    So that was that Richard. I didn’t eat a bloody thing. My only question is: How can you live like this? I can’t imagine what dinner round your house is like, it must be like something out of a nature documentary.

    As I said at the start I love your brand, I really do. It’s just a shame such a simple thing could bring it crashing to it’s knees and begging for sustenance.

    Yours Sincererly

    XXXX

    Paul Charles, Virgin’s Director of Corporate Communications, confirmed that Sir Richard Branson had telephoned the author of the letter and had thanked him for his “constructive if tongue-in-cheek” email. Mr Charles said that Virgin was sorry the passenger had not liked the in-flight meals which he said was “award-winning food which is very popular on our Indian routes.”

    • Borman says:

      You probably like Virgin only because of their prices. If you have nothing else to do than writing such long letters, then you have quite a sad life.

      • Jodie Canbridge says:

        You haved the name…… Mr Boring. Oh. oh, I mean Borman.

        • Jodie Canbridge says:

          and I don’t fly Virgin. I actually fly Qantas if you hadn’t worked that out yet *** you’re dumb. I picked these off the internet, took me all of two seconds. You see you right click copy paste, oh forget it. You would find it too long and too hard. Idiot.

          • Andy says:

            Jodie, whatever Mr Borman’s ostensible failings, I find you to be an incredibly patronising and childish individual with a nasty streak that one could assume is an indication of some kind of inferiority complex?

            Oh! The stuff you “cut & pasted” off the internet is funny, but it has been on the net so long that I am sure we have all seen it before; the first time being before you were born probably.

            And your ATPL (Australian Traind Pubic Lice) are fascinating. I bet they are Instrument Certified?

      • Jodie Canbridge says:

        Do you have an ATPL? Didn’t think so.

    • Nuala Walker says:

      Laughed out loud while reading witty account of Virgin meal. Author should write more and get it published.

  5. Steven West says:

    I have not experienced bed bugs with BA, but in 2000 I had a terrible experience with them flying from London to Cairo, and then back to London, finally on to Sydney. The left my luggage all night outside in the rain and ruined every suit and Christmas gift I got. Surly and rude staff could care less, and letters went unanswered and I swore I would never fly them again. Last year my company sent me to Cannes from Sydney for a meeting. I flew Qantas to London, then switched to BA in London to go to Cannes. All was smooth and I thought in the last decade they had changed their customer service. Upon leaving Cannes, to go back to London then Sydney they rather unpolitely informed me was in excess of my luggage allowance. This is despite having less than I arrived with in Cannes. The claimed it was an “internal” flight within Europe and not subject to the international bag allowance. I showed them it connected to a Qantas flight, and all they said is that they were BA not Qantas. I also showed my claim tickets of bags checked through to them coming from Sydney on the original flight, and they said I was lucky they did not charge me for that on the original flight. They wanted 220 pounds for my extra suitcase. SO, yet another BA ruined suit story as I consolidated down to one bag. NEVER EVER FLY WITH BUNCH OF CLOWNS! I have been stung twice for several thousand dollars now. They never responded to two letters about this incident, oddly Qantas apologised for them, but by then it was too late.

    • Borman says:

      Sorry mate, but this story about the bagage allowance is correct. You are leaving on a inter-europe flight and are bound ny the 20 kg rule. Your travel contracts states that clearly if you had bothered to read it.
      As you had probably a Qantas ticketed flight when you came in, that excluded the cannes trip, they extended your luggage allowance on your way in. Read the fine print, mate or pay.

      • Jodie Canbridge says:

        Always makes me laugh when people get surly and rant and and rave I told them etc etc and wonder why they aren’t upgraded to first class and a foot rub. BORMAN! You still here? Nothing better to do? I notice your comments are mainly single syllable. reason for that? Stupid maybe? Sick of the criticism yet? idiot? Good. You started it. egghead. Why don’t you get a job? Oh that’s right you’re a baggage handler that’s how you know all about baggage. Moron.

        • Andy says:

          Jodie, since you are studying to appear smart, the next time you need to say “one syllabe” – say “monosyllabic” rather. It will make you look so much smarter!

      • Steven West says:

        Well Borman, obviously you subscribe to same customer service model that BA does. Perhaps it is in some of their fine print, amazingly though I found three contradictory pieces of information on both airlines websites regarding luggage allowances on international flights. Basically BA sucks, I have experienced a decade previously and found nothing has changed. I personally cannot wait until they financially finally flounder out of business. One world states on their website “Each oneworld member airline will advise customers of the baggage allowance for their oneworld itinerary* at time of booking or check-in.” Well, I can promise you it is not a single piece of documentation I received at check in. It is so lovely of them to stick to the letter of the rules and inform me at check in…which was halfway through my trip with them after I already arrived. GREAT CUSTOMER SERVICE, and no it was not in the fine print handed me at that time of booking. I do not blame Qantas for not telling me, I blame BA for being to F’ing stupid to realize it is a connecting international flight and basically not caring about the customer at all.

  6. Stalker says:

    As the person who founded this website has been bitten on two flights and made a good fuzz out of it, one can not get around thinking that she was probably the vector who brought the bugs on the plane herself.
    There are worse things in life, please think about people that die in earthquakes and mines and stop moaning about these minor inconveniences. If BA starts to spray the whole plane with insecticides, people will start to complain about that.
    It is not BA’s fault that they carry people like the lady-complainant here.

    • Jodie Canbridge says:

      Two different aeroplanes both had bed bugs in seat 15 both had her sitting in seat 15. You do the maths. Chances of someone else being at fault zero+. Chances of her being at fault 99.999999999999999999%. Time to buy a bar of soap.

      • Andy says:

        Someone told me once that if you are scared of someone on any plane having a bomb then your best bet is to take your own bomb with. Statisticaly the odds of two unconnected people each bringing a bomb onto a plane is “statiscically insignificant”.

        But yeah. I agree – funny that she was getting nailed so often?

  7. Steven West says:

    Just another example of fine BA assistance. They love their passengers so very much. We all should boycott their lousy airline.

  8. Bed bugs love to bite warm blooded animals and human beings who can be a excess blood supplier for them.

  9. Arne says:

    Dont fly with BA !!!!!
    The compensation for the many travellers in dec 2010 Will be the most bad commersial Ever,we have to buy our own tickets fr.o.m. London to sweden, after 4 days of waiting for BA to do that, and now they want to compensate us with 10% of our cost…..what the fuck.
    No,i just gave a computer handy friend 3000 pound to do the worse he can do leagally to make Life misserebell BA.

  10. Cindy says:

    To everyone out there, before you book your flight , stay in a hotel/ motel, cruise line , contact customer service and ask them if the plane has been searched and treated for ( bugs). What type of treatment used! The bedbug infestation has become an epidemic. The only solution is to prevent them from spreading & eradicate them as much as possible.It is impossible to kill them all because they are everywhere in nature. With that being said we can get them out of where we need to.We are a new company ( IN-IN-OUT BUGS)and that’s our goal. Our product(s) is all natural( safe for everyone – including our pets). It kills in a brief amount of time. You don’t have to through everything away. So once again we encourage everyone to ask questions, demand results , protection . There’s an article that came out in Canada . The article suggest that MRSA( superbug-staphth and other serious pathogens can possibly be transmitted from bedbugs. The bedbug is a vector. Diseases in other studies are: HIV, staph, limes disease, hep B&C.

  11. Cindy says:

    Sorry! Typo error comment should say Staph, not Staphth.

  12. dave says:

    This is not as uncommon as you may think its inevitable thet planes are afftected by bed bugs from time to time.

    NOM NOM NOM :)

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