Viral vomit incident on Air Canada flight probed by Public Health Agency of Canada

The recent incident that garnered global attention involved a Montreal-bound flight operated by Air Canada and made headlines worldwide.

 Passengers on this flight found themselves in an unsettling and unsanitary situation, as they were almost compelled to occupy seats that had been contaminated with vomit from a previous.passenger. This alarming incident, where passengers had to deal with soiled and still damp seats, not only triggered outrage but also shed light on the broader issues plaguing air travel in Canada, according to experts in the field.

Air Canada issued an official apology to the affected passengers who were forcibly removed from the flight by security personnel after vocally protesting the unclean conditions of their seats. The airline acknowledged that it had failed to provide these passengers with the expected standard of care, conceding that their operating procedures had been improperly executed in this instance. This admission of fault underscored the severity of the situation and raised questions about the airline's adherence to safety and hygiene standards.

The incident caught the attention of Canada's Public Health Agency, which promptly initiated an investigation into the matter. The agency emphasized its responsibility to ensure that all modes of transportation, including airplanes, do not pose a risk of disease transmission through contact with bodily fluids, such as blood, vomit, and diarrhea. These bodily fluids can contain microorganisms capable of causing illness, making it imperative to treat any surfaces they come into contact with as contaminated.

Aviation experts, including John Gradek from McGill University, were quick to condemn the decision to dispatch the aircraft in such a condition, labeling it a "biological hazard." Gradek's incredulous reaction underscored the potential health risks posed by this incident and called into question Air Canada's judgment in allowing the flight to proceed.

The widespread outrage and social media outcry that followed the incident are indicative of a broader decline in the quality of service perceived by Canadian travelers. The past year has been marked by a slew of flight delays and lost luggage, further testing the patience of passengers who have already had their travel plans disrupted due to the pandemic. Former Air Canada Chief Operating Officer Duncan Dee noted that many travelers could relate to the experience of the passengers from Las Vegas, as they feel that their own travels have been severely affected in recent times.

Although social media was rife with images of long lines and disgruntled passengers at Toronto's Pearson airport over the summer, the chaos of overflowing terminals and luggage-clogged areas that marred the 2022 travel season did not repeat itself. This improvement was attributed in part to better-prepared industry stakeholders and fully staffed agencies and security contractors.

Despite this, Air Canada ranked at the bottom among the top 10 largest North American airlines in terms of on-time performance in July, with only 51 percent of its flights arriving on time that month. This dismal performance, as reported by aviation data firm Cirium, reinforced the perception that the travel system in Canada has failed passengers. Dee explained that last summer witnessed Canadian airports leading the world in cancellations, while this summer saw significant delays due to air traffic control issues, further highlighting the system's shortcomings.

Regarding incidents involving soiled seats, most airlines rely on third-party cleaning services to maintain cleanliness between flights, equipped with spare cushions to replace any contaminated ones promptly. Duncan Dee pointed out that accidents involving bodily fluids, from infants to adults, do occur regularly, albeit not on every flight.

However, the tight schedules and flight delays that have become more prevalent can put immense pressure on airline crews to minimize turnaround times and get back in the air swiftly. Extending the ground time for cleanup, as Gradek suggested, might not always be feasible given strict crew shift time regulations.

This incident in August was not the only one during the summer season involving contaminated seats and bodily fluids. A similar case occurred on an Air France flight from Paris to Toronto at the end of June, where a passenger reported sitting in the aftermath of a previous passenger's hemorrhage. The public health agency had to investigate this incident as well, raising concerns about the broader hygiene and cleanliness standards in the aviation industry.

In response to these incidents, the agency indicated that if a complaint is deemed related to a communicable disease and the airline fails to meet the requirements of the Quarantine Act, it may conduct inspections and potentially impose fines on the operators. These developments underscore the urgency of addressing hygiene and cleanliness issues within the aviation sector to ensure passenger safety and satisfaction.

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