Bed Bugs & Airplanes

Bed bugs can spread through close proximity with fellow travelers.

One very concerning prospect of travel is the possibility of bed bugs being transported and spread through personal belongings on airplanes. There are numerous cases where bed bugs were discovered on airplanes.

Bed bugs can spread through close proximity with fellow travelers as well as their belongings. They also thrive where there is frequent turnover of people. On airplanes, people are in close proximity, are not able to move other than on the plane, and their belongings are required to stay untouched for long periods of time. This is an excellent recipe for bed bug transmittal.

When baggage is checked for a flight, the bags are stored in a staging area prior to loading onto specified flights. The staging area includes bags from many flights, most likely multiple countries, and there is constant turnover of bags. The bags are then loaded into a cargo hold and the bags are stored tightly surrounded by other people’s bags. If one bag has bed bugs on the outside, many bags can be infested just on a single flight.

Since airlines are charging for baggage now, many people carry their own bags. These bags must be screened for security and are commonly opened by the traveler to remove items which must be screened separately. Bed bugs on the inside of the bag can then fall or crawl out. Since many bags are placed on the conveyor each hour, spreading of bed bugs is a real threat. When going through the metal detector, shoes, and other belongings are placed into bins which are reused many times per hour. Bed bug nymphs as a well as adults could remain in the bin undetected. When carry-on bags are placed in the overhead compartments of planes, the bags are surrounded by other travelers’ bags, increasing chances for the spread of infestation.

Airplane seats can become infested if someone unknowingly carries bed bugs on board the airplane. Since so many people are in a single seat each day, spreading is a real possibility, and the bed bug does not have to travel far for a blood meal.

Eliminating all chances of infestation from an airplane is impossible, but it is possible to take some steps to reduce chances of bringing home bed bugs. First, always inspect luggage before bringing it inside your home. Remove all belongings outside of the main living area and inspect for bed bugs. Launder all materials brought back from trips. The most important step is to remain aware.