Bed Bugs On Airplanes? Yikes! How To Fly Bed Bug-Free
Monday, November 21, 2011
Just because you haven't heard much about bed bug-infested
airplanes doesn't mean that economy or business class seat is free
of the icky pests. While the topic hasn't hit the headlines the way
bed bugs in hotels has, the stories are getting out.
Passengers Go Viral with Bed Bug Complaints
According to the Daily Mail, British Airways was forced
fumigate two planes after discovering a bed bug infestation on
Angeles-London flight. However, BA did not act quickly; the
business class passenger, Zane Selkirk, became so disgruntled by
the airline's lack of response to her complaints that she set up
awebsite and posted photos
of her bite-covered arms, legs and feet online and they went viral
and it wasn't until then that BA conducted an investigation and
found the bugs. Another passenger wrote an
op-ed letter to the New York Times
last year after flying United Airlines to Washington
D.C. from L.A. - again in business class - and arriving covered in
bites his doctor diagnosed as bed bug bites.
Yet search for official reports or statistics about bed bugs on
airplanes and you won't find much. "There are numerous cases of bed
bugs being spread on airplanes," according to Bed-Bugs.com,
a referral site for extermination services. "Bed bugs can spread
through close proximity with fellow travelers 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."
Packable Airplane Seat Covers Offer Bed Bug Protection
Of course, it's easy to imagine that the last thing the airlines
want to talk about is passengers bringing home a
bed bug infestation as a result of an overpriced, under-served
flight. The fact that it's the upholstered lounge chairs of
business class that seem to harbor the pests is also not a popular
topic. And no, they're not likely to add fumigation to their
standard cleaning procedures. So what can you do to protect
How to Stay Bed Bug-Free While Flying
Several companies are coming to the rescue with products
designed to protect against bed bugs in transit.
- Cover Your Seats. Invented by a New York entrepreneur fed
up with worrying about bed bugs at the movies, Bug Off seat covers are
light stretchable plastic covers that are easy to slip over
airplane or movie theater seats. They're light and packable and
provide a bug-proof layer between the upholstery and you. You could
accomplish the same thing by bringing a box of saran wrap and
encasing your seat in plastic, but these seat covers are much
easier to use and the fabric is also comfortable to sit on. Several
other companies, BedGuard and Seat Defender have also jumped into
this market, but I've tried Bug Off covers myself and can attest
that they're big enough to go over any airline seat and the strong
fabric doesn't rip even on a long flight. At $2.99 they're also not
a big investment.
- Bring your own pillow and blanket. In Zane Selkirk's
horrific experience, it was the blanket "crawling with bed bugs"
that caught her eye. It doesn't have to get that extreme, though,
to suggest it's best to beware airline blankets. After all, during
last year's H1N1 flu epidemic, many airlines pulled the blankets
fearing they could transmit the virus. Pack a travel pillow
(inflatable if you're tight for space) and a blanket or pashmina
shawl. Or just dress in warm layers instead.
- Plastic Bag Your Carry On. Since it's way to easy for bed
bugs to slip into your carry on while it's stored under your seat.
The best way to prevent this happening is to encase it in a plastic
bag, such as a shopping bag or kitchen-sized garbage bag.
- Stop Bed Bugs Before They Get In Your House. The real
problem with bed bugs isn't when they bite you en route (the bites
heal quickly and don't cause any lasting damage), it's when they
come home with you and set up housekeeping in your home. The way to
keep this from happening is with stringent preventive measures.
Don't bring luggage or carry-ons inside your home, but empty them
outside and wash clothes and anything else that's washable. A hot
dryer will also kill bedbugs, so dry anything you don't want to
wash. Put the suitcase and bag itself in a plastic bag and store
for two weeks.
If you do bring home bed bugs, the bad news is they multiply
quickly, so the
best way to get rid of them
is to act fast and be thorough. And
bed bugs aren't the only health problem on planes, of course; ever
since the H1N1 epidemic last year there's been increasing attention
on the problem of flu and cold transmission on airlines. Luckily,
there's lots you can do to
stay flu-free while traveling