Image of airplane with bedbug underneath

Bed Bug Stowaways Crawl Over Seats and Disrupt Flights

One British Airways flight crew recently walked off their airplane because it was infested with live bed bugs crawling over its seats (2). Passengers were delayed 4 hours until a plane free of bed bugs could be substituted. The aircraft, originally scheduled to fly from Heathrow to Ghana, was immediately taken out of service, but not soon enough to prevent embarrassment. This incident follows a few months after Ghanaian passengers successfully petitioned British Airways to change its planes to Ghana owing to quality below standard, resulting in uncomfortable services. The scandal was covered by major news outlets around the world, from the New York Times, to Indian Times, and numerous others.

In a similar story in Oct. 2017, The Canadian Press reported that a British Columbian family was bitten by bedbugs during a nine-hour flight to London. Because no other seats were available, they were not able to switch seats. Watching bugs continuing to crawl out of the seat ahead of them was unsettling (3).

Airlines assured reporters that bed bugs are rare. But bedbugs can hide in luggage, and be transported from hotels via transportation to other facilities and homes. Since airline passengers can’t be treated before boarding, extermination may sometimes be necessary on aircraft.

As bed bugs continue to expand their horizons with global travellers, watch for future coverage of global pest management successes and failures. Canine bed bug detection is one component that may help diagnose the problem early, and verify the results of extermination efforts (4). Bed bug detection dogs can regularly screen planes and hotel rooms, detecting any infestation before it spreads, minimizing both costs and negative customer experiences. They are also invaluable on airplanes and cruise ships, where they can rapidly search the entire area in a much shorter time than humans could visually inspect.

Flights are a prominent example where preventing bed bugs is far more pleasant, than addressing a full-blown infestation. Informed travellers can limit dissemination of bed bugs by sealing luggage in airtight plastic, unpacking and inspecting luggage over a bathtub upon returning home, washing and drying clothing at the hottest temperature possible, and using appropriate disposal for contaminated belongings that cannot be treated.  For detailed travel tips to prevent and limit bed bugs, and steps to take if you know you’ve been exposed, visit the forums (1).



Media: Adobe Stock

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