26 OCT 2017: Anyone that read Pam Stellini’s Tuesday “Mission Eradication” piece on her daughter’s bedbugged mattress woes will certainly agree she deserves ‘Mom of the Century’ status for such incredible persistence in banishing the pesky critters.  

I must confess, if confronted with the same situation, I’d probably have either ditched the mattress or adopted a new daughter and let the old one work the bugs out on her own: But that’s just me!

Bedbugs are however, a pain in the associated risks of travel, be it international or domestic. In fact, when it comes to air travel in particular, mounting any form of meaningful defence against these tiny terrorists is well nigh impossible. As the recent British Airways incident demonstrated, short of spraying every aircraft between each and every flight – which would guarantee nothing – there really is no way to stop passengers from unwittingly giving these little stowaways a free ride. If they hooked up - so to speak - in the traveller’s hotel room, the bug’s on its way to a new home and maybe to accruing a lot of frequent flier points.

Before booking a hotel, just about every major city has an active online Bedbug Registry site that anyone can check. I do however strongly suggest you do not look at any of these as you run the serious risk of simply never feeling comfortable about travelling again.

With an excess of 4,000 current bedbug reports, the New York City metropolitan area allegedly has the worst infestation rate in North America: The NYC bedbugregistry.com site’s red dot infested map of the city looks eerily like a bedbug bitten limb.

bedbugs

With 2,270 reports in Toronto and just under 2,000 in Vancouver, Canada’s two largest cities are (happily) well back in the North American rankings.

While, as opposed to hotels, the majority of the dots represent residential locations that have reported infestations, local hotel workers, suppliers and others are highly likely to be living in such places. It doesn’t need an official ‘Take a Bug to Work Day’ for the spread-a-bug-about system to work. As to whether there’s a single major culprit, airline passengers stay in hotel rooms and hotel guests fly on airlines so it’s very much a share the responsibility situation.

From the airline perspective, anyone that saw the 2006 movie ‘Snakes on a Plane’, will appreciate that things can be a lot worse than being bitten by an apple seed sized bug but statistics on the occurrence rate of either one are scant at best.

In Canada, planes are required to be cleaned every 24 hours. WestJet spokesperson Lauren Stewart confirmed that, “Aircraft are groomed by the flight crew after each flight and by a professional groomer at the end of each work day.” The same applies to Air Canada, where spokesperson Peter Fitzpatrick said: “We follow a strict grooming program in which all interior surfaces are cleaned, sanitized and disinfected with products as approved by Health Canada on a regular basis.”

That’s all well and good but does any of this effectively serve to keep bedbugs at bay?

The answer is that nobody really knows. Transport Canada doesn’t require aircraft to be sprayed with insecticide, as do Barbados, Cuba and other Central American countries. Even there however, it is highly questionable whether these very superficial procedures actually do anything to repel notoriously hard to kill bedbugs.

But don’t let it bug you too much. According to Murray Isman, a University of British Columbia professor of entomology and toxicology, travellers shouldn’t be too concerned about a major outbreak of bedbugs biting airline passengers. Dr. Isman told the Canadian Press that, “If you think about the normal situation which is someone sleeping in a hotel bed or a bed at home, the bedbugs don’t like a lot of disturbance or movement. They like it quiet and dark.” he said.

Of course, on the “every cloud has a silver lining” front, next time you’re crammed into a dreaded middle seat, you could enlist the ‘Bedbugs on a Plane’ media attention as a means to improving your seating arrangements.

Just try very deliberately scratching your upper body for several minutes before quietly muttering to no one in particular, “Ugh. That damned hotel I stayed in last night must have had bedbugs.” You’ll be surprised just how quickly you have the whole row to yourself!


Pam Stellini's - Mission Eradication 

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David Tait

David Tait's insight and irrepressible humour give us an insider's take on the airlines and the industry in general. He doesn't pull his punches, and readers find his columns thoughtful, informative, amusing and infuriating – regardless, David's views on our industry are always original. 

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