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” Bed-bug Airways: BA grounds two jumbos after woman tells how flights left her covered in bites “

British Airways grounded two jumbo jets after a passenger complained of being badly bitten by bed bugs during two separate long-haul flights. The airline contact pest control London and fumigated one of the planes on which it confirmed there had been an infestation and apologised to the woman for her ordeal. Businesswoman Zane Selkirk revealed her body was ‘crawling’ with bugs and ‘covered with bites’ during a ten-hour transatlantic flight from Los Angeles to London Heathrow in January. The 28-year-old believes she was also bitten on a second flight in February during a business trip from Bangalore in India to Heathrow.

BA grounded the two 350-seat Boeing 747-400s after computer industry executive Miss Selkirk – fed up by the poor response of the airline’s customer services – set up a website detailing her ordeal. Miss Selkirk, who works for internet company Yahoo!’s media group, said she set up her protest website ‘after two horrendous flights’. She used the site –ba-bites– to post graphic pictures of the injuries on her body. Stung by her online protest, BA confirmed bed bugs had been found on the LA to Heathrow plane, which was then fumigated before being put back into service. But a spokesman said the airline had not discovered any evidence of infestation on the Bangalore to Heathrow flight.

The revelations will certainly resonate throughout the U.S., where there has been a massive resurgence in bed-bug outbreaks. The mites are invading public schools at an alarming rate, with 1,700 confirmed cases reported in New York City’s schools alone in the last five months. The figure is on track to triple last year’s total of 1,019 cases in the city. A spokesman from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said that while in the past the infestations were concentrated in ‘hot spots’, they were now spreading all over the country.

Miss Selkirk, who lives in Los Angeles and has dual British and U.S. nationality, said she had also noticed other references on the internet to passengers being bitten by bugs, but didn’t feel BA was taking the issue seriously enough. She said: ‘After the experience I had, all I wanted was some reassurance that BA would acknowledge the issue and address the problem to pest control. ‘If enough people started talking about their experiences with bed bugs on planes, the airline industry would have to do something about it. ‘Ultimately I’m not interested in any kind of compensation from British Airways. What I’d like is some peace of mind regarding aircraft cleanliness for myself and other airline customers.’

Miss Selkirk was bitten while travelling in BA’s premium economy World Traveller Plus cabin. She said: ‘I discovered bugs crawling literally all over me, multiple generations of bugs were found to be infesting my seat and headrest. ‘I turned on my light to find bugs crawling on my blanket and a bed bug blood-spattered shirt. I left my ten-hour flight to find my body covered with 90 bug bites. ‘All I can be sure of is that when I got on the plane my skin was clear of bites. When I got off, I had 90.’ BA’s spokesman said: ‘We have written to Miss Selkirk to apologise for the problems she has described on her trip and reassure her that we take such reports seriously. ‘The presence of bed bug is an issue faced occasionally by hotels and airlines all over the world. British Airways operates more than 250,000 flights every year, and reports of bed bugs onboard are extremely rare. ‘Nevertheless, we are vigilant about the issue and continually monitor our aircraft. ‘Whenever any report of bed bugs is received, we launch a thorough investigation and, if appropriate, remove the aircraft from service and use specialist teams to treat it.’

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