Bedbug Alert. How to Spot Them on Your Airplane Seat?

No legroom, inflight meals, expensive Wi-Fi, and chirpy co-passengers. If that wasn’t enough, you have to worry about bedbugs on your airplane seat, too.

These bloodsucking bugs can attack even 35,000 feet off the ground.

Here’s all that you need to know about these hitchhikers who get free flights, and plenty of inflight meals.

Bedbugs on Airplanes – It Is More Common Than You Believe

In 2011, a passenger complained of bedbugs in the North Atlantic British Airways flight. In 2016, a passenger on the BA Boeing 747 from the U.S. had the same complaint. In 2017, A Canadian couple flying from Vancouver to London with BA in October 2017 reported that their seven-year-old daughter was covered in bites after the flight. In 2018. Air India’s Newark-Mumbai flight had two separate complaints of bedbugs from business class flyers.

British Airways or Air India aren’t the only bedbug-preferred airlines.

It is tough to lay hands on numbers, but social media documentation by travelers who were bothered by these bugs is enough proof that the problem is rampant.

Airlines say it is a rare occurrence. But bedbugs could be frequent flyers.

Why Should You Be Scared of Bedbugs?

A study published in BMJ Open revealed that bedbugs can take an emotional toll on you. Plus, they leave you with itchy bumps.

The only good thing is that bedbugs don’t carry any diseases.

So, while you might be covered in red itchy spots on your body, and the constant itching can give you secondary skin infections, at least you won’t catch a deadly disease from them.

Spotting Bedbugs – Knowing Your Enemies and Telltale Signs of an Infestation

Unlike mosquito bites, bedbug bites don’t cause an instant reaction. You might notice itchy welts up to three hours after being bitten.

Knowing who you are up against is the best way to avoid them.

Bedbugs look different based on the stage of the lifecycle they are in. In general, they are small, wingless creatures that can range in color from light to reddish-brown, and are oval in shape.

They are about the size of an apple seed. Upon hatching from the egg, they may just be 1/32nd of an inch (less than one millimeter), and they can grow up to a quarter of an inch as adults. 

Spotting bedbugs is the clearest sign of a problem. Other telltale signals of an inflight bedbug infestation include:

  • Bedbug droppings. These are small, dark-colored dots on the seat or the sides of the cushion.
  • Bloodstains on your airplane seat.
  • A foul, musty odor.
  • Bedbug egg shells or shed skins in the corners of the seat.

Found a Bedbug? Here’s What to Do.

If you find an actual bedbug or notice the signs of an infestation, inform the cabin crew as soon as possible. They might shift you to another available seat or carry out fumigation.

It Might Not Be the Airline’s Fault

There had been reports of bedbugs in the Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport’s Terminal 4 in 2017, and Kansas City Airport seating area in 2018.

So, chances are that you carried bedbugs from the seating area to the flight, or from your hotel, home, restaurant, or anywhere else.

Bedbugs cannot fly. They can crawl, into your luggage, onto your clothes, and then clear the customs with you and be your co-passenger on the flight.

How to Have a Bug Bite-Free Flight?

Here’s what you can do to avoid starting or finishing off your trip with red, itchy, welts from bedbug bites all over your body:

Book the Right Flight

Bedbugs are nocturnal. They feed on your blood when you are asleep, usually in the middle of the night. This makes overnight flights more prone to bedbug attacks.

Also, they are averse to movement. So, if you are not sleeping and still, you stand a lesser chance of being a bedbug’s meal.

While booking day flights isn’t always possible, and neither is it a conclusive way to avoid bedbugs, it is worth a shot.

Find the Right Seats

Among the many other things you can check while booking a flight, also check the kinds of seats that the airline has. Bedbugs hate smooth surfaces like vinyl. It is tougher to crawl on and hide in. That makes airlines with vinyl seats on the plane a safer choice for you.

Dress Correctly

Bedbugs will bite you on any exposed area of your skin. But they cannot bite you through fabric. So, the more your skin is covered, the better you’ll be able to save yourself from the bites.


No, don’t bring your own booze on the flight (unless you’re flying in the U.S.). Bring your blankets and pillows. No amount of inspecting and sanitizing the flight-provided blankets will match the safety of bringing your own.

Most people today carry their pillows and blankets for longer flights for comfort reasons. So, it won’t make you feel out of place either.

Disinfect the Danger

Before you sit down on your seat, disinfect it with a bedbug repellant. Worried about strange glances from others? That would still be better than leaving with bedbug bites.

Use a Seat Cover

Seat covers prevent hidden bedbugs in the airplane seats from biting you. You can buy them off of Amazon, or from local stores.

Still Got a Bedbug Bite? Don’t Panic. Do This.

In most cases, bedbug bites get better on their own in a week or two. But they are extremely itchy.

Anti-itch creams and calamine lotions help relieve the symptoms. You can also take an oral antihistamine to reduce the itching and burning sensation, or an over-the-counter painkiller to relieve swelling and pain. Though, it is recommended to consult a doctor before taking any medications.

Sometimes bedbugs also cause an infection called cellulitis. Washing the bite with soap and water and resisting the urge to scratch will minimize the risk.

In very rare cases, bedbug bites can also cause serious allergic reactions that require emergency medical attention.

When traveling abroad this means you’d have to spend a lot of money on getting treatment and care. In such situations, travel medical insurance or travel insurance can help pay the medical bills. Insubuy aggregates travel insurance plans from different providers to help meet your insurance needs. Compare the options and pick a suitable plan to get coverage for the cost of medical mishaps abroad.

How to Not Become a Bedbug Taxi?

As we discussed before, you might accidentally be providing taxi service to bedbugs.

Bedbugs lay one egg each day, according to the publication Scientific American. It might not sound like much, but imagine what would happen if you just brought a couple of them home. By the time you realize it, you’d have a growing colony and an active infestation that would be tough to get rid of.

Here’s how you can avoid that:

Get the Right Bag

Hard-case luggage doesn’t allow be bugs to latch on as unwelcome guests. Pick up bags in light colors like yellow, green, or white to deter bedbugs, as they don’t like these colors. These colors also make them easily visible if you happen to be carrying them along.

Wrap Things in Plastic

When all your luggage is in separate plastic bags, bedbugs are denied entry into your things.

Don’t Unpack So Soon, or on the Bed

When you reach your hotel or your home after the flight, don’t unpack everything on the bed or the couch. If you have bedbugs onboard, they’ll get the chance to find a new hiding place and start a colony. Use a metal stand or a rack for unpacking.

Also, when you are back home, wash everything in hot water, or freeze it to kill any stray bedbugs. If that’s not possible, leave your luggage outside in your garage, and clean everything before bringing it in. Stay vigilant and prepared with the tips discussed above, and have a bedbug-free flight and vacation.

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