Aviation safety campaigners have claimed that the British Airways plane which filled with smoke 10-minutes before landing into Valencia yesterday evening had suffered at least two other ‘fume events’ in June. During one incident, the First Officer decided to offload herself prior to takeoff because the fumes made her ill and the plane was eventually grounded for inspection.
All 175 passengers and 8 members of crew on Monday’s British Airways flight BA422 were evacuated via the emergency slides when thick white smoke filled the passenger cabin. Three passengers were taken to hospital, although thankfully no serious injuries were reported.
Passengers on board the aircraft likened the incident to a horror movie as what has been described as “horrible smelling” smoke filled the cabin. Cabin crew put on protective breathing equipment as they tried to work out what was going on, while the pilots also had to land the plane while wearing oxygen masks and goggles.
The Unite union which represents cabin crew at the Heathrow-based airline is now demanding a full inquiry into exactly what happened amid allegations that the smoke could have been contaminated with toxic fumes. Industry sources claim there were at least 40-recorded fume events in June (industry-wide) but caution that this is just the “tip of the iceberg”.
Two of those events are alleged to have taken place on the same aircraft that was involved in Monday evening’s incident – an 11-year old single-aisle Airbus A321 (G-MEDN). In the first incident on the 5th June, the smell of fumes is alleged to have entered the cabin, resulting in the aircraft being grounded for investigation.
Then, on 8th June, a “strange smell” entered the flight deck prior to departure. The First Officer felt unwell and was offloaded before the plane was taken out of service.
“Far too often fume events like these go unreported and are brushed under the carpet by the airline industry. This latest fume event only came to light because members of the media were on board the flight,” cautions Howard Beckett of the Unite union.
“The airline industry cannot continue to hide from the issue of toxic cabin air whilst placing the health and safety of aircrew at risk. Independent expert evidence concludes that air onboard jet planes can contain a toxic mix of chemicals and compounds that potentially damage the nervous system and may lead to chronic irreversible health problems in susceptible individuals.” he continued.
Safety campaigners urge anyone who thinks they have been involved in a fume event (also sometimes referred to as an odour event) to seek medical advice at the earliest opportunity. Specialist blood tests should be requested within 24-hours of the suspected event taking place.
British Airways hasn’t yet responded to these latest allegations but have told us that “the safety of our customers and crew is always our highest priority.” The airline said yesterday’s flight suffered a “technical issue” and that a BA team were in Valencia assisting passengers and crew.