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The Bedbug Panic Appears to Be Spreading to the Skies.

In Bed Bugs on March 1, 2011 at 11:59 am

Bedbug complaints prompt British Airways to fumigate 747

By Ben Mutzabaugh, USA TODAY


By Ben Mutzabaugh, USA TODAY

The bedbug panic appears to be spreading to the skies.

The Daily Mail of London reports “British Airways grounded two jumbo jets after a passenger complained of being badly bitten by bed bugs during two separate long-haul flights.”

BA confirmed bedbugs had been found on one of those jets –both Boeing 747-400s — and that it has put the plane back into service after being fumigated.

The story came to light after a 28-year-old Yahoo! executive claimed she was bitten by the bugs on two separate BA flights — one from London Heathrow to Los Angeles in January and on another from Bangalore to London Heathrow in February. BA says it fumigated the 747 that flew the London-L.A. flight.

Zane Selkirk, the executive, says she went public with the episode only after getting what she considered to be a lackluster response from BA regarding her complaints.

She created a website — — to chronicle her experience. The site includes vivid photos of the bites, as well as her critique of BA’s response.

With that, BA “has become the latest airline to face a sophisticated internet protest,” writes the highly regarded Financial Times, one of the first major media outlets to pick up the story.

The Times writes Selkirk — a platinum-level frequent flier in the oneworld alliance that includes BA — has joined a growing number of disgruntled passengers who have turn to the Web to air grievances against an airline.

The publication points to actor Kevin Smith — deemed too big for his seat by Southwest — and singer Dave Carroll –of “United Breaks Guitars” fame — as other recent examples.

As for Selkirk, she claims she took her complaint to the Web only after BA failed to give her what she felt was an adequate response to her concerns.

“After the experience I had, all I wanted was some reassurance that BA would acknowledge the issue and address the problem,” she says to the Daily Mail. “If enough people started talking about their experiences with bed bugs on planes, the airline industry would have to do something about it.”

“Ultimately I’m not interested in any kind of compensation from British Airways,” she adds to the Daily Mail. “What I’d like is some peace of mind regarding aircraft cleanliness for myself and other airline customers.”

For its part, BA says it has apologized to Selkirk and adds it does not take such complaints lightly.

“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,” BA says in a statement to the England’s Press Association. “We have written to Ms Selkirk to apologize for the problems she has described on her trip and reassure her that we take such reports seriously.”

Still, despite the squeamish nature of the story, folks shouldn’t be too quick to point their fingers at BA, says The Economist — another highly regarded publication that’s picked up on the story.

Noting the resurgence of bedbugs has been called a “global pandemic,” the publication’s Gulliver business travel blog writes:

So some of the more intrepid bugs have hitched a ride with a passenger or their luggage and then made merry in premium economy. Horrible, yes, but I don’t think we can expect a carrier to inspect their bedding after every trip. (Or do these incidents indicate that this needs to change?) For the time being, though, I think we excoriate BA for a lacklustre response to Ms Selkirk’s complaint and chide it for the presence of the bugs. Not the other way round.


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