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If you read any of the travel headlines in the last week, or over the past year for that matter, then no doubt you’ve winced in horror. Here are just a couple of incidents from this past week that would even make frequent fliers not want to get on a plane. RELATED: Drunk Passenger on American Airlines Throws Up on Seatmates in First Class

Air Canada kicks off passengers who refused vomit-smeared seats
Passengers throwing up on a plane is not that uncommon, which is why most airlines provide barf bags in the seatback pockets. What is utterly unfathomable though, is that Air Canada kicked a couple off from a flight because they didn’t want to sit in the uncleaned mess.

From the BBC: “Apparently, on the previous flight someone had vomited. The flight attendant was very apologetic, but explained that the flight was full.” She said staff “placed coffee grinds in the seat pouch and sprayed perfume”, but that the seat and seatbelt were “wet and there was still visible vomit residue”. Ms Benson said the pilot came out of the cockpit after several minutes of “back-and-forth.” The passengers were told “they could leave the plane… and organise flights on their own dime, or they would be escorted off by security and placed on a no-fly list!” They were then escorted off by security.”

It’s disgusting, of course and it’s neither the first nor the last time something like this will happen on an airplane. Remember when a drunk passenger on an American Airlines flight threw up on his seatmates in First Class? And don’t even get me started on the American Airlines passenger who urinated on his seatmate? And then, it happened again! It’s absolutely crazy though for an airline to think a passenger is going to sit in a seat that’s not been fully cleaned and disinfected.

But No One Was Prepared For the Diarrhea Plane
Per Popular Mechanics: “On September 1, 2023, a passenger on board a Delta Airlines flight from Atlanta to Barcelona experienced extreme diarrhea, forcing the aircraft to make a u-turn. The incident highlights the complexity of addressing a potentially wide variety of medical emergencies that occur during a flight as the flight attendants had no means to clean the mess, such as hazmat or PPE suits.”

I’ve flown over three million miles on thousands of flights and have experienced each of these incidents only once. The time I witnessed a passenger getting vomited on was when my then one-year-old son projectile vomited all over my poor wife, just after takeoff. Since I’m an aviation geek and love to take pictures of airplanes and airports, I just happened to capture the moment it happened. My wife initially didn’t want me to publish the photo but it’s so classic and funny that now she’s okay with it. I didn’t even realize I’d caught the moment until later on in the flight when I was looking through my photos.

What that incident taught us is to ALWAYS carry an extra set of clothes. For decades I’ve been telling travelers to bring a sweater because planes are usually freezing cold even if they’re on a short, inter-island tropical flight, but after this incident, we now travel with a backpack with a full set of clothes for each of us, just in case something like that happens again. Having someone throw up on you is not likely but having someone spill a drink on you is and you definitely don’t want to have to sit around for the rest of your flight in wet clothes.

The Air Canada incident also shows you how dirty plane seats can be. It’s one of the reasons I always like  houseguests who have just gotten off a plane to change their clothes before sitting on our couch. My wife thinks I’m a mega-germaphobe. I am.

BTW: We also pack bathing suits in the carry-on if we’re going somewhere warm. If the airline loses our bag, we don’t have to scramble or overpay for a bathing suit and can still take the kids to the pool or beach.

As far as Delta’s diarrhea incident goes, I actually sat next to an older gentleman (coincidentally also on a Delta Air Lines flight, this one from Atlanta to West Palm Beach) about a decade ago who did go to the bathroom in his pants. He smelled so bad that I (and everyone in the surrounding rows) had to hold our noses for the whole flight. Fortunately, it didn’t leak out like what happened on the Atlanta to Barcelona flight.

But this is why I always pack alcohol-based wipes to wipe down any high-touch surfaces, why I wash my hands constantly and why I keep my hands away from my face.

I’m not sure if these incidents are happening more often than they used to or whether they’ve been happening all along and we’re only hearing more about them because almost everyone has a smartphone and access to social media.

According to Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA International, who was recently interviewed by The Washington Post, she “does believe we’re seeing more cases of gross. She credits the uptick to more people flying, as travel volume this summer exceeded 2019 levels. Nelson also believes the pandemic kept more sick people at home, and that sick people may be more inclined to travel these days.”

If a similar situation happens to you before the flight departs, the best thing to do is say something. When I was flying next to the elderly man who went to the bathroom in his pants, the flight attendant pulled me aside mid-flight and asked why I hadn’t told them before takeoff. She said they could have denied him boarding for not meeting the airline’s cleanliness standards.

If either scenario happens near you mid-flight, then ask a flight attendant to reseat you somewhere away from the incident. Unfortunately, most planes are going out full but sometimes the airline will keep the last row open for flight attendants to sit comfortably on their break.

However, if it happens when you’re in the air, like the Delta flight to Barcelona, then there’s really nothing you can do but land ASAP. If you watch the gross video below, you’ll understand why they turned the plane around. It’s also a good reminder to never walk barefoot in the cabin and especially not in the bathroom, something I see all the time and just can’t comprehend.

Bottom line: The best thing you can do is travel prepared. Never travel without a travel-size pack of disinfectant wipes, hand sanitizer (this one is our family-favorite), face masks and a change of clothes in your carry-on bag.

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