Following headlines about in-seat bedbug infestations, boycotts by London art scene luminaries and threatened sanctions from foreign governments, British Airways officials have reportedly ordered an “ultra-cleaning” of the entire fleet.
Deserved or not, British Airways has developed a reputation for less than spick and span aircraft cabins. In recent months, the stigma of grubbiness following the UK flag carrier has only grown. A string of nausea-inducing headlines hasn’t helped matters.
In January this year, cabin crew members went to the press with accusations that the airline’s well-documented bedbug troubles are “bigger than anyone believes.” Earlier that same month, still other crew members refused to fly on an aircraft that was reportedly infested with bedbugs. The flight was delayed for more than four hours until a replacement crew could be convinced to board the plane. Reports of bedbug-infested British Airways planes go back at least as far as 2016 and include reports of children as young as seven years old suffering dozens of bites in a single flight.
British Airways officials in the past have called the bedbug incidents “very rare,” but promised that “occasional” occurrences are “taken seriously.” The carrier has, however, been accused of ignoring bedbug sightings rather than taking equipment out of service for pest control and cleaning.
Earlier this year, Ghana Aviation Minister Cecilia Dapaah threatened sanctions against BA for repeatedly sending bedbug-ridden planes to and from the African nation.
“They should make sure all flights that are deemed to come to Ghana are all fumigated,” Dapaah warned. “If we ever see one bedbug or any untoward thing on their flight, we will take a drastic action. It should not have happened in the first place, and it should never happen again.”
Of course, even a spotless aircraft cabin is vulnerable to a bedbug invasion, but the British Airways cleanliness challenges have earned a very public boycott from tony London quarters.
Frequent flyer Michael Hoppen, a London gallery owner and brother of designer Kelly Hoppen, organized an impromptu boycott of sorts after becoming fed up with the less-than pristine condition on BA flights. “It has got worse in the last four to five years,” Hoppen told The Sunday Times in January. “I have started using other airlines: Virgin, American Airlines. They are clean.”
British Airways officials responded by promising to step up the monitoring of its cleaning crews.
“We place huge importance on the cleanliness of our aircraft and wherever they are in the world they are cleaned after every flight,” the airline said in a statement to the newspaper. “We have recently introduced a team of our own managers to work alongside our cleaners at Heathrow to carry out increased inspections.”
Now, Paddle Your Own Canoe reports that the company will eventually pull every aircraft from service for a short time in order to give the entire fleet an “ultra clean,” telling crew members that the move will help to provide a “professional environment to work in.” According to unnamed sources cited by the news site, the airline’s Boeing 787 planes will be the first to undergo the deep clean treatment with other aircraft to soon follow.