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Investigation Launched by Health Agency into Air Canada Vomit Incident Reflecting Wider Customer Issues

The outrage caused by a passenger incident involving a vomit-stained airplane seat is indicative of a larger frustration with flight operations in Canada, according to travel specialists. The country’s public health agency is currently investigating the recent episode. On Tuesday, Air Canada issued an apology to two passengers who were escorted off the plane by security after complaining about their soiled and damp seats prior to an August 26 flight from Las Vegas to Montreal. The airline stated in an email to The Canadian Press, “They clearly did not receive the standard of care to which they were entitled. Our operating procedures were not followed correctly in this instance.” The Public Health Agency of Canada is in contact with Air Canada, citing its responsibility to ensure that anything brought into the country on planes or trains does not pose a risk of transmitting illnesses through bodily fluids. The agency stated, “Blood, vomit, and diarrhea may contain microorganisms that can cause disease. These fluids, and the surfaces that come in contact with them, should always be considered as contaminated.” A Facebook post by Susan Benson of New Brunswick, which has gone viral, described the incident in detail. She mentioned that she noticed a foul smell but was unsure of the cause until later. The cabin crew attempted to mask the odor with coffee grinds and perfume. Benson saw that the middle seat was wet and dirty, and she detected vomit residue on the seatbelt. Despite the efforts to conceal the smell, she could still smell it from her seat behind the affected passengers. Benson observed the two women speaking with the flight attendant about their wet seats and visible vomit residue. In her post, she mentioned that the flight attendant apologized but explained that the flight was full and there was nothing they could do. The women were eventually provided with wipes and blankets, and they settled in as best as they could. However, a pilot later approached them and gave them two options: to voluntarily exit the plane and reschedule their flights themselves, or be escorted off the plane by security and be placed on a no-fly list. Benson rejected the pilot’s characterization of the women’s behavior, stating that they were upset but not rude or raising their voices. She expressed her dissatisfaction with the passengers’ treatment, especially considering the ongoing pandemic and the earlier requirements for masks and sanitization. John Gradek, an aviation management professor at McGill University, criticized the decision to dispatch the aircraft with a biological hazard on board, calling it “totally out to lunch.” The incident has sparked outcry on social media, reflecting the deteriorating level of service perceived by Canadians after a year of flight delays and lost luggage. Air Canada ranked last in on-time performance among the 10 largest airlines in North America in July, further adding to the frustration among travelers. Specialists suggest that tight schedules and flight delays can put pressure on cleaning crews to quickly turn around planes, potentially compromising thorough clean-up procedures. The incident involving vomit-stained seats is not the first of this summer, as there was a similar complaint about uncleaned bodily fluids in June. The public health agency has the authority to inspect and fine operators if they fail to meet the requirements of the Quarantine Act and if a complaint is determined to be related to a communicable disease.

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