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.
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.