On the 9th August 2010 I travelled on an Airbus A319 to Faro from Bristol (Easyjet). My partner and I sat in row 1A &1B and on entering the cabin noted a faint oily smell, similar to that in a motor vehicle gearbox. Bear in mind this was the first flight of the day as it was approx 06.30 am. After engine start, during take off and climb the smell became much stronger and was noticeable to me and my partner. The cabin crew appeared unaffected and we therefore didn’t comment on the smell. During the flight I became light headed and had slight breathing issues and eye irritation and also a metallic type taste in my mouth. I went to the toilet and blew my nose and the metallic taste/smell appeared to be very noticeable. My partner however seemed ok. The smell appeared to dissipate but returned during descent.
Within 2-3 hours of arriving in the resort both me and my partner felt extremely drained with very little energy and the need to sleep. I felt as though I was going to fall asleep during lunch and had to force myself to stay awake, so drowsy that my speech was apparently a little slurred. I felt sick and generally unwell for the rest of the day and not quite right for the 4 days away. The return flight was also an Airbus A319 through the same carrier although newer and no smell on entering the cabin or at any stage during the flight. We again sat in seat 1A 1B.
Since return to the UK I felt completely drained although appears better now. I still get weakness in my legs and arms which feel shaky on occasion, slight eye irritation and very cloudy head similar to feeling drunk and a pressured feeling in my head, which makes it difficult to concentrate/focus. I generally have 4 breaks per year which is obviously an average of 8 flights per year. I have a preference to fly on Airbus Aircraft, normally A320/A321 although have on occasion flown on B757.
Also to mention is that Prior to 2003 I was extremely healthy. In 2003 I boarded an A320 flight at Las Palmas and it absolutely stank of the wet dog/sick type smell on boarding. With no prior experience when a passenger seated next to me asked what the smell was I said, “Don’t worry, probably just the air conditioning”, referring to the issue as the same as car air conditioning when it requires refreshing. The smell remained for the entire flight and as I wasn’t looking for a problem gave it little or no thought. For years after this flight I had muscle pains, joint pains, headaches, high blood pressure, dizzy spells, palpitations, serious sinus problems etc. Hospital tests only identified blood pressure issues something never experienced before. In the last 2 years most issues have subsided.
I am really concerned as I love flying and for the first time ever have now started feeling uncomfortable with flying. I have even started looking at the alternative of ferries/driving to get to the Canaries for our winter sun break but obviously this is not realistic due to the driving and time involved. Having purchased the Toxic Airlines DVD last year I am now aware of the problem and it is clear that a lot of the problems I have experienced are related. I cannot believe the extent to which this is covered up and now highlight the risks to all the people I know if they mention flying abroad...
Do you have any advice on worst offending aircraft/carriers and in flight precautions that can help protect me and my partner if we fly again?
Your views are much appreciated and if you can highlight a report for the flight concerned I would be interested to hear. I still have the booking details somewhere if you require exact flight time or flight number.
Aerotoxic Association comment: As far as we can tell, no MORs (Mandatory Occurrence Reports: safety-related reports sent by crews to the Civil Aviation Authority) for the flight have been filed for a fume event on this date. The top offenders for fumes are the B757 and BAe 146/RJ100. It’s hard to say which airlines are worst as we don’t see that information on the MORs. The crews are not made aware of the seriousness of engine oil fumes, so we believe underreporting is also a big problem. Although it will not stop all the contaminants, an activated charcoal should certainly help passengers in a fume event.