HolidayTravelWatch has since 2007, been actively engaged in highlighting to Consumers, the global concerns of contaminated air on-board aircraft. The Organisation is a member of the ASHRAE SSPC 161 Standards Committee on Cabin Air Quality in the USA and we are also engaged with other Campaigners in trying to establish an European Standard on this subject.
The Organisation has recently heard from a group of 15 UK Holidaymakers who were affected by a fume event on-board their return flight from Burgas Airport in Bulgaria to Manchester Airport in the UK on 13 June 2014; they tell us:
- That prior to take-off, the engines were turned off/on and passengers were sitting in conditions that were described as 'hot & humid';
- On take-off, they experienced a 'grey' mist from the middle to the aft section of the aircraft;
- One of the group of passengers advised that his eyes started to water and he had to use paper hankerchiefs to prevent his eyes from stinging;
- They state that both passengers and crew were affected, notably with stinging eyes, throat irritation and bouts of coughing;
- They advise that crew passed among the passengers administering oxygen;
- The group reports that some passengers were becoming anxious as a result of this event particularly as little information was being provided;
- They advise that the pilot apparently announced that the reason for the fumes was due to the fact that they had passed into the slipstream of another aircraft;
- Some report that they apparently had to pay for water on the aircraft during this incident;
- The crew did not appear to take passenger details nor offer any ongoing guidance as to the nature of this event or what they might have been exposed to;
- Following the flight, these 15 Air Passengers have sought answers to what happened but such answers have not apparently been forthcoming;
- Some within the group have reported that they have experienced respiratory & nausea problems post flight and all are undergoing medical tests to ascertain the nature of and any residual problems following their exposure;
- The group are not certain whether they flew on an Airbus or Boeing Aircraft.
HolidayTravelWatch compares this experience to the recent comments at a Press Conference at the Farnborough Airshow, when the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Airbus, a Mr John Leahy, who when asked whether Airbus will develop Airbus Aircraft that they are selling to have 'bleed-free'* air technology, stated:
"No, absolutely not, we don't think that's the right way to go at all, if you have a bleed system on the airplane, we think it's a proven system, the only minor point had been some of the pneumatics involved ocassionally gave people in maintenance some trouble in costs. We were able in the 380 to show that you can have a bleed system with electronic control of the bleed that's exactly what we are doing on this aircraft as well and you don't have any problem with contaminated air, that's absurd".
This was then followed by a comment from the facilitator of the press conference (name unknown) when he was heard to state off-camera:
"The air by the way is exchanged every three minutes on-board our aircraft".
The Organisation acknowledges that Airbus is one of the greatest industries in Europe, but was surprised to hear Mr Leahy's comments and can only assume that he was being specific about one type of aircraft; we would again compare his comments to those contained within the Airbus Fast Magazine which discusses bleed-air problems and contamination, in particular, issues #10, #34, #45, #50 and #52.
Equally, we acknowledge the pole position that Boeing occupies in Aircraft Manufacture but would also refer to their open comments on bleed-air contained within their own Magazine, Aero, specifically, AERO QTR_01.09, AERO QTR 01.09 (2),
HolidayTravelWatch invites Airbus & Mr Leahy, Boeing, The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), BHAir (Flight Number BGH 5511), the Bulgarian Civil Aviation Administration & the UK CAA to reflect on the experiences of these Air Passengers and provide them and other passengers on this flight with answers as to:
- What type of Aircraft were they flying on?
- What happened on this flight?
- Full information as to the actual and potential toxins they were exposed to?
- What steps are being taken to protect Air Passengers in bleed-air aircraft from the risks of exposure?
Frank Brehany, The Consumer Director for HolidayTravelWatch states:
"For quite some time we have been calling on a 'Passenger's Right to Know'; if ever there was a moment when this should be a given, then the 15 passengers who have come to us and the remaining passengers deserve to be treated with respect and be provided with all the information they need as to what happened to them on this flight".
"For many years I have watched the aviation industry box intself into a corner on this important issue, they must surely realise that the time has come to take part, as we have suggested, within an International 'no-fault' protocol which we say would lead to a more open and unified approach to this International problem?"
"I think it is incumbant upon all parties to explain to these Air Passengers what type of aircraft they were on and indeed what happened on this flight and not offer dismissive commentary or a refusal on their 'Right to Know'; it is time to treat passengers with respect!".
*Notes to Editor: Bleed-Free technology refers to the new method of extracting air to breathe in the aircraft cabin which is opposite to the current and widely used 'bleed-air' method, by which air that is breathed in an aircraft cabin, is extracted via the aircraft engine or APU and processed and introduced into that cabin.