Bed Bug Outbreaks Hit British Airways Flights

A British Airways plane infested with bed bugs was allegedly kept in service despite staff knowing about the problem - a claim the airline denies.

The Sun reports

that staff at the airline logged the issue after the insects were spotted - and passengers bitten - on a flight from the US to Heathrow last week. So serious was the problem that an entire row - 47 - was closed in economy class, the newspaper said.

But staff claimed that engineers did not have time to deal with the bugs and bosses decided to keep the aircraft in service. Days later another "severe" infestation was reported on the same Boeing 747 during a flight from Cape Town to Heathrow.

British Airways denied that it had allowed the plane to return to the sky after the outbreak was discovered.

"Whenever any report of bed bugs is received, we launch a thorough investigation and, if appropriate, remove the aircraft from service and use specialist teams to treat it," a spokesman told Telegraph Travel. "The presence of bed bugs is an issue faced occasionally by hotels and airlines all over the world. British Airways operates more than 280,000 flights every year, and reports of bed bugs onboard are extremely rare. Nevertheless, we are vigilant about the issue and continually monitor our aircraft."

The aircraft has now been fully disinfected and cleaned.

As the name would suggest, the insects are more commonly spotted in bedrooms, and outbreaks sometimes occur in hotels.

Last month a couple posted a video showing dozens of bed bugs

on the mattress in their New York hotel room. The incident left one of the guests covered in bites.

And in July two holidaymakers won compensation from Thomas Cook after they suffered severe rashes thanks to a bed bug infestation at a resort in the Dominican Republic.

But outbreaks do occasionally occur in the sky. "There are numerous cases of bed bugs being spread on airplanes," according to

, which offers extermination services. "Bed bugs can spread through close proximity with fellow travellers as well as their belongings. They also thrive where there is frequent turnover of people. On airplanes, people are in close proximity, are not able to move other than on the plane, and their belongings are required to stay untouched for long periods of time. This is an excellent recipe for bed bug transmittal."

In 2011 BA was forced to ground two 747s after a passenger said she was bitten on a flight from Los Angeles to Heathrow. The same woman claimed she was bitten on a separate flight from Bangalore to London a month later and set up a website (since closed) to put pressure on the airline to act. Forums have described sightings on US carriers too - including

American Airlines






Bedbugs are oval, brown, wingless insects measuring around 4-6mm. You rarely see them in the flesh, but can often see traces of where they have been, in the form of brown spots or bloodstains from previous victims.

They bite. Bites often occur in groups. Unlike mosquitoes that generally only bite once, bedbugs carry on biting until satisfied. The bites can be intensely itchy but have never been shown to be capable of transmitting any disease.

Bedbugs are found world-wide and have increased considerably in distribution since about 1990. They can infest sleeping bags and luggage, so travellers may be inadvertently responsible for moving them around.

If you are paranoid about bedbugs, insecticide-treated sleeping bag liners offer good protection. Insecticide-treated mosquito nets can also help. Have a good look around bed linen for any brown marks, and move beds away from walls.Insecticides (such as permethrin) are effective, and suspect sleeping bags and travel clothes should be given a good, high temperature wash.

Take antihistamine tablets (not cream) for itchiness - you may also need to apply a strong steroid cream. But there's no risk of catching anything more serious.

By Dr Richard Dawood, Telegraph Travel's health expert

Telegraph Media Group Limited 2019

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