Union accuses British Airways of downplaying health risks from plane fumes

A union representing cabin crew are concerned by perceived measures to downplay the effect of fumes on board British Airways.
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A union representing cabin crew are concerned by perceived measures to downplay the effect of fumes on board British Airways.

A British trade union is accusing British Airways of downplaying the harm caused by fumes on board its planes.

A British Airways flight from San Francisco to London was diverted after 25 members of the cabin crew became unwell after inhaling fumes, on October 25.

The plane was in flight when the cabin crew became unwell from the fumes, but no passengers were affected.

The pilot requested permission to make an emergency landing citing "toxic fumes, toxic gas-like fumes," as the reason, according to recordings released online.

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Internally, however, British Airways began referring to this event and similar instances as "odour events", the Unite Union said.

Unite director of legal services, Howard Beckett, said it was clear that the incident on board "was more serious than a mere 'odour event'.

"Downplaying serious toxic fume events on board aircraft as 'odour events' smacks of spin and an attempt to manipulate official statistics to downplay how widespread the problem really is in the industry," he said.

The union believed a similar fume incident happened the day after 25 crew were hospitalised with conditions such as vomiting. The union said crew members put on oxygen masks, but the flight continued on as normal from Heathrow, UK to Los Angeles, USA. It was unable to provide more information about the alleged fume incident.

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A British Airways spokeswoman told The Guardian, "there has been no change in the way in which we investigate reports of this nature. We continue to conduct thorough and detailed investigations which we share with the CAA. We always encourage our people to report any potential incident to allow us to investigate them."

 - Stuff

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