American Airlines Under Bed Bug Assault

American Airlines Under Bed Bug Assault

Infestations on 777 and 787 Planes

BB Maintencance Entry

A growing number bed bug infestations are occurring on American’s 777 and 787 aircraft and flight attendants at the airline are not having it — they say this issue has been festering for too long and American’s approach to dealing with it has been extremely negligent.

On recent long-haul flights, crew-members have woken from rest breaks to find they’ve been ravaged by blood thirsty bed bugs; their skin covered with painful bed bug bites. Some of the attacks and contact with insecticides have been so severe that hospitalization has been required.

It’s so sad that passengers and crew have to deal with this on top of everything else! — American Airlines Employee

Reports from flight attendants to American’s Flight Service department as well as maintenance write ups haven’t resolved the matter and it only continues to get worse as bed bugs crawl the AA fleet. Just one of the infested aircraft flew to Sydney, London, Hong Kong, Sao Paulo, Los Angeles, Miami and Dallas in just over 3 days with extermination being attempted in between flights.

Aircraft Routing

In 3 days, bed bugs aboard this Boeing 777 visited four continents

Crew Members Told “Fly With The Bugs Or Else”

There have been cases within the last month where American has simply hauled off infested mattresses from crew bunks, sealed off the area and then allowed the plane to continue flying with passengers and crew on board. In other words, bed bugs were able to continue to make their way into other areas of the aircraft and come into contact with passengers, crew and their personal belongings. Priority AAccess for sure.

In cases where crew bunks have been put temporarily out-of-service, American has been providing flight attendants with passenger seats for crew rest breaks which has removed seats from the premium cabin inventory that would normally have been made available to customers.

When flight crew have expressed their concern about subjecting passengers and themselves to infested aircraft, they’ve been threatened with dismissal for insubordination if they do not work the trip.

Extermination Protocol Falling Short

bed bug map

Proper extermination involves removing mattresses, bedding, carpets and curtains before treating the area with a very potent insecticide. Once the area has been treated, it must receive an extremely detailed cleaning before new furnishings may be replaced.

Some flight crews feel that American’s bed bug extermination procedure is lacking and not being carried out by specialized professionals. Our ground crew sources tell us they are only spraying the affected areas when aircraft are on the ground between flights at international destinations. The crew bunk areas are still being left with previously infested curtains and carpets which retain toxic chemicals as well as the various type of bed bug remains.

Bites to face of flight attendant following rest break

Skin inflammation of flight attendant following rest break.

American management has done everything possible to keep the affected aircraft flying full schedules while carrying out the extermination process. Although they’ve been routinely placing the bunk areas “out-of-service” while the insecticide kills the bed bugs, the chemicals eventually dry into a fine powder which becomes airborne, possibly circulating through the aircraft’s ventilation system as well as making direct contact with the skin.

American has been taking measures to minimize the bed bug issue and any discussion of it on social media. They’ve made calls to a flight attendant who is being treated for chemical poisoning— directing the flight attendants to remove Facebook posts made from the hospital bed which illustrate how dangerous the situation is becoming.

What’s Being Done?

Here is what Hector Adler, American’s VP of Flight Service, had to say in his email to flight attendants this week:

“We are working with our Safety department, airport teams, and the APFA to determine what is causing a skin reaction that some crewmembers have experienced after using the crew bunks on some of our 777 and 787 aircraft. As a preliminary measure, we are immediately cleaning and sanitizing these aircraft, and taking immediate and extraordinary steps to resolve this matter as quickly as possible.”

Hector Adler is very well liked and respected at American and most American employees blame upper management the airline for the way this situation has played out. Doug Parker and Scott Kirby are well known for taking shortcuts when it comes to anything affecting employees. UPDATE: I’ve received dozens of messages advising me that Mr. Adler is not as well liked and respected as I’d previously been advised. More on that later! 

And from APFA:

“We received countless reports this week from concerned Flight Attendants who have experienced various health issues after using crew bunks on our widebody fleet.

APFA immediately consulted with the American Airlines Safety, Security and Environmental Programs department to take the first steps in identifying and resolving the issues. Initially, and moving forward, we will be looking very closely at cabin cleaning products and disinsection procedures used on our aircraft.

Effective immediately, ALL crew bunk areas will be blocked off prior to the residual disinsection process. To ensure there are no traces of chemicals, the bunks will be thoroughly sanitized with a non-toxic, biodegradable cleaner.

APFA will travel with a safety team from American Airlines to conduct a review of the application process and verify all precautions are taken.

The safety of our Flight Attendants is paramount and we will continue to monitor and assess the situation. In the meantime, please continue to document any health issues or symptoms resulting from a suspected exposure by filling out an AMR Event report and following IOD filing procedures.”



Gailen David is co-host of the nationally syndicated travel talk show, "The Jet Set" with over 1.8M weekly viewers in over 200 television markets in 12 countries. A former flight attendant, he leads a global discussion about "Jetiquette", the rules or code of civilized travel. Gailen is a frequent contributor to CNN, HLN and USA Today on topics related to the airline travel experience and of course, Jetiquette. Visit Gailen's website

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