Public health agency launches investigation into Air Canada vomiting incident

Outrage over a pa*senger incident involving a vomit-stained plane seat reflects broader frustration with airline operations in Canada, travel experts say.

Meanwhile, the country’s public health agency says it is investigating the recent episode.

On Tuesday, Air Canada said it apologized to two pa*sengers who were escorted off the plane by security after protesting that their seats were soiled — and still damp — before an Aug. 26 flight from Las Vegas and Montreal.

“They clearly did not receive the level of care to which they were entitled,” the airline said in a statement emailed to The Canadian Press. “Our operating procedures were not properly followed in this case.”

The Public Health Agency of Canada said it is in contact with Air Canada. He cited his mandate to ensure that anything brought into the country by means of transport ranging from planes to trains does not risk transmitting diseases that can be spread through contact with bodily fluids.

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“Blood, vomiting and diarrhea can contain microorganisms that can cause disease. These fluids and the surfaces that come into contact with them should always be considered contaminated,” the agency said in a statement.

In a Facebook post that has since gone viral, Susan Benson from New Brunswick said she was in the row behind the two women when she detected “a foul smell, but we didn’t know at first what it was. the problem “.

Cabin crew had ‘placed ground coffee in the seat pocket and sprayed perfume to mask’ the smell, she said in the August 29 post which garnered a total of 8,100 reposts and comments on Wednesday evening .

The middle seat was wet and dirty, Benson said in an interview, adding that she saw vomit residue on the seat belt. From her place behind the women, she could smell him despite the perfume and the coffee grounds.

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Both women spoke with the flight attendant, explaining that their seats were wet and there was visible vomit residue, Benson observed.

“The flight attendant apologized but explained that the flight was full and there was nothing she could do,” Benson wrote in her post.

The women were eventually given wipes and blankets and ‘settled in as best they could’, she said in the interview, but then a pilot arrived and knelt at the height from the eyes of women.

“He said very clearly and clearly that they had two options: either they could exit the plane of their own accord and rearrange their flights themselves, or security would escort them off the plane and they would be placed in no-fly list,” Benson said.

“They asked him again, ‘Forgive me, what?’ He repeated it word for word.

Benson dismissed the pilot’s description of female behavior.

“They were upset. But they weren’t rude. And there were no raised voices,” she said.

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“They were just very firm that they couldn’t sit on a wet seat that still had vomit residue in it.”

Benson said it was unacceptable for pa*sengers to be placed in such a position.

“I find it very strange that – what is it, a year ago – that you have to wear a mask and disinfect yourself and whatever. And now, a year later, is it okay to sit in vomit? It sounds ridiculous.

John Gradek, who teaches aviation management at McGill University, says the plane should never have been dispatched, given the “biohazard” on board.

“But what are you doing?” he asked the carrier. “Totally out for lunch.”

The social media outcry over the incident speaks to a degraded level of service perceived by Canadians after a year marked by frequent flight delays and lost luggage, said Duncan Dee, former chief operating officer from Air Canada.

“People’s patience is probably running out of steam,” he said.

“I think travelers can relate to these two travelers’ experience outside of Las Vegas because they feel their travels have been much more disrupted than before (the pandemic).”

As photos of winding queues and messages of frustration from pa*sengers at Toronto’s Pearson airport surfaced on social media over the summer, the chaos of overflowing terminals and crowded arrivals areas with the baggage that marked the 2022 travel season has not happened, in part due to better prepared actors and fully staffed security agencies and contractors.

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Nonetheless, Air Canada ranked last in on-time performance among North America’s 10 largest airlines in July, according to a report. Canada’s largest carrier landed 51 per cent of its flights on time that month, according to figures from aeronautical data firm Cirium.

“Last summer, the three (largest) Canadian airports topped the global rankings for cancellations. This summer there were significant delays due to air traffic control,” Dee said. “The system just let travelers down. »

About the latest incident, he added: “These seat cushions are removable. »

Most airlines use third-party “groomers” who clean seats and aisles between flights and have access to spare cushions to replace soiled ones “at relatively short notice,” Dee said.

“There are toddlers, infants and even adults who have certain accidents…it doesn’t happen on every flight, but it certainly happens every day.”

But experts say tight schedules and flight delays, which cut into turnaround times, can put more pressure on crews to get back to the air as quickly as possible.

“You would extend the time on the ground on the plane doing the cleaning,” Gradek said, pointing out that crews have strict rules about their working time, or “duty period.”

Last month’s incident was not the first of the summer involving seats and bodily fluids.

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On June 30, a pa*senger on an Air France flight from Paris to Toronto said he was sitting among the uncleansed remains of a previous pa*senger’s haemorrhage, prompting an investigation by the agency. public health.

Regarding the latest incident, the agency said that if a complaint is determined to be related to a communicable disease “and the operator has not met the requirements of the quarantine law”, it may proceed with a inspection and ultimately fine the operator.

— With files from Hina Alam

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