British Airways often markets itself as a classier alternative for transatlantic flight. There's a hint of royalty as British accents in its television adverts proclaim excellence. One commercial even beckons travelers with the slogan, "Experience a softer world." Footage depicts a woman's head resting comfortably on a crisp, white pillow.
That certainly wasn't 28-year-old Zane Selkirk's experience, at least according to the Angeleno's claims regarding her recent flights on the airline, which she has posted on a website she calls BA Bites!
During two BA flights in recent months, including one from LAX to London Heathrow, Selkirk says she was ...
... bitten ~100 times by chubby, crunchy, blood-sucking insects ...
Nasty, but there's more. On that LAX-Heathrow journey, Selkirk says this was her experience:
"I turned on my light to find bugs crawling on my blanket and a bedbug-blood-spattered shirt. On the return journey, I left my 10-hour flight to find my body covered with 90 bug bites. The worst part was the nonexistent customer service throughout the 10-day ordeal."
On Friday the UK's Daily Mail newspaper reported that British Airways, after allegedly being "unhelpful and unfriendly" to Selkirk (her words), launched an investigation and wrote a letter of apology to her:
We have written to Ms 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 bugs 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.
BA admits there were bugs on Selkirk's first trip but denies there were any on the second plane.
Selkirk, who has dual U.S.-UK citizenship, says her first bedbug experience happened on a flight to and from London on Jan. 28. She writes:
I'm one to freak myself out in the dark, and with the cabin lights dimmed my imagination was running wild. I felt like I was seeing spots on the arms of my shirt and blanket over my lap, so to calm my nerves I decided to switch on the light over my seat. Unfortunately, my imagination had not been running wild.
She soon headed for the loo:
At some point in the lavatory I looked in the mirror. It took a minute to see that there were small bugs - much smaller and lighter in color than the one on my blanket had been - crawling around on my white shirt. I took a somewhat more measured approach to their removal this time, pulling them off carefully one by one with paper towels. There were at least four live ones on my shirt, another two crushed on my shoulder, and a blood stain on the back of my shirt where I must have leaned back on a full-size (and full-stomached) one.
The second trip was Feb. 5 from Bengaluru International Airport in Bangalore to London (Selkirk is a Yahoo "global entertainment & lifestyles" marketing manager, which we assume means she travels a lot).
As I walked out of the plane my shoulder bag was rubbing against my lower back and for some reason it was intensely itchy. It got so bad that I actually stopped walking - halting the flow of foot traffic on the jetbridge - to pull the back of my shirt up to see what was going on. For some reason I was actually surprised to see a mass of fiery red bumps on the side of my back.
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This episode was less gross but more infuriating: Selkirk says BA workers refused to acknowledge the bites.
Is she gonna sue?
"I am not interested in any kind of personal compensation from your airline," Selkirk writes.