Media reports out of the United Kingdom say a long-serving member of cabin crew at British Airways has been awarded £13,000 (approximately $17,000) in damages by a court after he sued the airline because he had been bitten “by a venomous insect” onboard one of its planes.
Although the incident took place in 2013, a judge has only just ruled on the case at the Central London county court. The cabin crew member, Terry O’Driscoll, had been working on a flight from London Heathrow to Denver, Colorado when he took a break in the crew bunks of the Boeing 747 aircraft.
The 50-year old O’Driscoll said he was leaving the crew rest area when he “felt a nip” on his left forefinger. He was able to continue working but in the coming days his hand became increasingly sore and painful. Eventually, O’Driscoll went to a hospital where he received intensive treatment for an infection.
The Evening Standard newspaper reports that the cabin crew member’s infected hand was saved as a result of the medical treatment he received.
While the insect responsible for the bite was never identified, an expert was quoted as saying it was likely to be a brown recluse spider – a venomous spider which is native to North America.
O’Driscoll sued his employer, British Airways, for failing to keep him safe at work although the airline fought the claim, saying the bite could have happened anywhere. Judge Susan Jackson, however, disagreed with BA’s defence and said the airline had failed to stop bugs and insects getting into the crew rest areas of its aircraft.
In the last few months, British Airways has faced heavy criticism for the cleanliness of its planes – a Ghanian lawmaker even threatened to take legal action against the airline after the situation got so bad.
Images recently released by the aviation blog, Head for Points showed cleaners carrying out a thorough deep clean of the 120 long-haul planes in BA’s fleet after the airline decided to take action and clean up its act. An internal memo explained: “Dirty interiors have been a source of complaints from customers and cabin crew for some time.”
Reacting to the judgement, a British Airways spokesperson told us that they were aware of the judgement and would be reviewing it.
“The health and welfare of our staff is hugely important to us and we always ensure our crew are able to rest in a safe and clean environment,” the spokesperson continued. The statement went on:
“We regularly check our aircraft as part of a scheduled programme and we’re pleased that there were no other reports of this nature in relation to this aircraft. “