Repeated call for Aviation Authorities to introduce 'Passenger's Right to Know'

Yesterday we called on British Airways to reflect on their actions, following the diversion of flight BA 286 (SFO to LHR) to Vancouver. We suggested that the airline reflect on the incident and provide passengers with timely information so that they can determine whether or not they need to seek medical help.

Within that press release we again set out our call for a universal 'Passenger's Right to Know'.

In order to understand the passenger experience on this flight, we have noted the information contained within non-UK news reports. The Canadian News Channel, Global News have provided a number of reports for their viewers, but one in particular, presented by their reporter, Grace Ke (@GraceKeGlobal), determined a number of issues, namely:

  1. That the crew were not panicking despite reports from crew and passengers of a 'foul smell';
  2. That there was a sense amongst some passengers that there was a lack of information both in the air and on the ground;
  3. That at one stage the lights went out and the emergency doors were illuminated with a green light;
  4. Some passengers on the upper rear level of the aircraft detected some unusual smells;
  5. One female passenger reported that:
    1. She had detected some 'weird smells';
    2. She was feeling 'quite nauseous';
    3. That she was apparently advised to get 'checked out';
    4. When she apparently had a conversation about going to hospital, the airline allegedly told her that they did not have the money to pay for this and that she would have to pay for this herself at a cost of $800;
    5. She revealed that she had been to see a paramedic;
    6. She advised the reporter that she had no cash and that her travel insurance had run out and therefore she could not go to the hospital;
  6. A male passenger advised Grace Ke that:
    1. He had detected a smell, and
    2. Wondered whether someone had taken their shoes off;
  7. In concluding her report, Grace Ke advised viewers that:
    1. The Canadian Transportation Board had advised her that it was 'not unheard of' for planes to be diverted because for example reports of a 'foul smell';
    2. She explained that it was suggested that such reports could stem from a bird hitting the plane to seal leaks from an engine resulting with the possibility of 'toxic fumes getting into the cabin'.

We have noted and do not doubt the sincerity of comments made by BA as to how they prioritise the health & safety of crew and passengers, we do however consider that a 'Passenger's Right to Know', deployed by ALL airlines would go a considerable way to demonstrate those sentiments.

This organisation has consistently called for action on possible toxic fume events by the Aviation Authorities since 2006, here is a selection of those calls:

  1. Come Fly with Me? Report to EASA - 12/1/10;
  2. HTW calls the FAA to Action over Cabin Air Quality - 21/9/12;
  3. HTW calls on the EU Commission & Governments to introduce a Passenger's Right to Know' - 12/11/12;
  4. Aerotoxic Flight renews call for a 'Passenger's Right to Know' - 24/1/13;
  5. Call for Aviation Industry & Authorities to answer the concerns of 15 Passengers - 31/7/14;
  6. Consumer Group calls for action following Aircraft Fume event - 15/8/14;
  7. Concern for Passenger's Safety following 3rd Aircraft Fume Event Report - 9/9/14.

We are not alone in calling for a 'Passenger's Right to Know'; the Australian Government's review of the evidence (dated 4/10/10 - this Organisation contributed to that inquiry), also recorded the panel's recommendations that passengers should be informed about various issues following a fume event (page 131).

This Organisation has been active in lobbying, both through its Standards work (ASHRAE & CEN) and by direct contact with EASA & the EU Commission to develop this Right for Passengers. Whilst good progress is being made within the Standards Committees, it is disappointing to note the lack of political will on this important subject.

Frank Brehany, the Consumer Director for HolidayTravelWatch states:

"If the reports we have seen are correct, then they represent a text-book case of why Passengers should have a Right to information following a Fume Event on-board an aircraft. Whatever my call yesterday, it is clear that Aviation Authorities and Governments need to consider this issue as a matter of urgency and create the conditions whereby this important cohort of Consumers are not left wondering what has happened to them but more importantly, be provided with key information that helps dictate health management post flight. I sincerely hope that the Aviation Authorities heed this call which is now well beyond it sell by date!"

Tags: Cabin Air Quality Aerotoxic Toxic Fumes Fume Events Vancouver San Francisco A380 British Airways EASA FAA Passenger's Right to Know