Dirty, disgusting planes to make summer travel hell

Excited to travel this summer? Think again.

Rosa Sanchez, an airplane cabin cleaner for Swissport — which provides cleaning services for several airlines at Logan Airport in Boston — told the Guardian that staffing problems, time constraints and equipment shortages are leading to dirty, disgusting planes.

“Sometimes we don’t have enough supplies to clean, so we just use what we have or just use water. Sometimes we don’t have a mop, so we use the blankets left on airplanes by passengers to clean the floors,” Sanchez said. “Sometimes in the bathroom there will be blood on the floor, toilet, walls, and there is feces and urine on top of the toilet. When I don’t have enough gloves, I’ve had to wrap a blanket around my hand to clean the bathroom.”

In 2022, she was poked by a hypodermic needle while cleaning an empty plane. Sanchez continued to work and then paid for medical care herself.

“I was rushing to clean because we didn’t have enough people. I reached in and pulled my hand out of a seat pocket and the needle was sticking out of my finger,” Sanchez said, recalling the gruesome incident.

Aircraft cleaning service. Male cleaner working in airplane salon.
The conditions airplane cleaning crews are put in are sometimes unsanitary and disgusting.
Getty Images/iStockphoto

Close up hand is wearing gloves cleaning aircraft seat for covid-19 prevention. New normal travel and transportation concept.
Simple cleaning supplies, such as gloves, aren’t abundantly provided to airplane cleaning crews.
Getty Images/iStockphoto

Sanchez and several others have filed complaints against Swissport via the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

In response, the company said it complied with regulations and “the health and safety of all our employees is the highest priority for Swissport”.

According to the Transportation Security Administration, air travel during summer 2023 is expected to surpass pre-pandemic levels. Flying is getting increasingly more uncomfortable.

“The industry shifted, and it’s not what it once was. The airline executives, they look at numbers to see how to get in more seats, reducing the distance between seats — all of these things contribute to why there are problems with passengers in the air,” Gary Peterson of the Transport Workers Union told the Guardian.

Recent travel horror stories include a passenger’s neighbor upchucking breakfast every 20 minutes and barf bags exploding on lengthy flights.

Messy inside view of commercial aircraft cabin airplane economic area with rows of seats down the aisle during fly.
Aircraft cleaning crews are left with messy cabins to quickly clean in between flights.
Getty Images

Instances of unruly passengers also seem to be on the rise.

“There is no comfort in flying any more unless you’re in a first-class or business-class seat,” Peterson said. “If you’re in a coach-class seat, it’s brutal.”

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