Galley Gossip: Barfing on a plane – the do’s and don’ts

1. Don’t fly – if you feel sick before boarding a flight, talk to an agent about rebooking on a later flight. Trust me, it’s better to be sick in the terminal than on an airplane. At least in the terminal you can leave. Once on the plane you’re stuck.

2. Don’t ask to sit in first class – On a recent flight during boarding, a passenger told me she felt ill and then immediately asked if there were any first class seats available. Just because you’re sick doesn’t mean you can sit in first class.

3. Do locate the barf bag As soon as you feel nauseous look inside the seat back pocket in front of you for a barf bag. Because you may not have one. It’s amazing just how many have been transformed into hats (pictured), dresses, ipod holders, gum holders, trash bags, or used as paper for writing letters.

4. Do tell a flight attendant – Don’t wait until the last minute to inform a flight attendant you’re not feeling well. Tell us ASAP! This way we’ll be able to take better care of you. We’ll even give you something bigger to throw up in. Those little barf bags are not large enough for projectile vomiting. Trust us, we know.

5. Do sit near the front of the aircraft – Mix an upset stomach with a little turbulence and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. The front of the aircraft is always a lot less bumpy than the back. Just make sure to ring your call light and tell a flight attendant what’s going on before it gets too bumpy to move you to another seat!6. Do get comfortable – Recline your seat and if possible, turn the air vent on high. If you’re feeling clammy, a flight attendant will bring you a cold, wet towel to place on the back of your neck.

7. Do drink soda – Without ice. On my last flight a doctor informed the crew that Coke works better than Ginger Ale. “The syrup has medicinal properties,” she said. Make sure to get rid of the bubbles (carbonation) first by stirring or pouring the liquid from one plastic cup to another before serving it to a sick passenger.

8. Do eat something – Think white; bread, dinner rolls, biscuits, crackers, whatever. Take small bites and eat slowly.

9. Don’t barf on others – Once a passenger barfs on another there’s usually a chain reaction. This is a flight attendant’s worst nightmare. A friend of mine had a little boy on board who vomited on several passengers as he ran to the lavatory. Soon there were 40 other passengers joining in.

10. Don’t barf in first class – On my last flight a woman ran all the way from coach to first class and then locked herself in the lav for thirty minutes. We were on a 757. There’s only one bathroom in first class. The cockpit never got a potty break.

11. Do discard barf properly
– When that same sick passenger finally exited the lav, she attempted to hand me a warm bag of barf. We were in the middle of the meal service. Please, I beg you, discard barf in the proper location, the trash receptacle located in the lavatory.

12. Don’t be embarrassed – flight attendants deal with sick passengers all the time. It’s no big deal. Just about everyone has felt sick on an airplane at some time or other, and if they haven’t their time is coming. Remember to lend them your barf bag.

13. Ask for a wheelchair – Before the airplane lands, tell a flight attendant you’d like to have a wheelchair meet the flight. This way you won’t have to walk through the terminal if you’re still feeling badly.

14. Don’t fly
– Got a connecting flight? Go back to number one and stop there!

Photo courtesy of Gthills and Ben Howes

50% of air travelers will fly with the flu to avoid a fee

I’m a one of the those people who always seems to get sick after a long plane ride. A few days post-trip, I suddenly get a runny nose, sore throat and all the other telltale signs of a cold, most likely contracted from a sick passenger. Usually it’s minor, and I’m out of commission for only a few days.

I guess I’ve just been lucky that it hasn’t been the flu, because, according to a recent TripAdvisor survey, over 50% of travelers would choose flying with the flu over paying a fee to change their flight. As if we needed more reason to get a flu shot before we travel this season, now we know that someone with the flu may end up on our flight, just to avoid the fee.

Out of 2,327 people, 51% said they would fly while sick with the flu rather than pay the $150-$200 fee (plus any change in price) imposed by most airlines in order to change their flights to a later date. This is obviously, alarming news, but I can see why it is the case that people would rather cough up some germs on their fellow passengers than cough up the extra cash to change the tickets. Especially because costs for the new dates will often be higher, meaning you may end up paying more like $300-$400 per ticket for the change.

In the case of inescapable commitments, I can understand why someone would not change the ticket. But for a leisure trip, I would consider it. Of course, I don’t want to get others sick, but from a purely selfish standpoint, I don’t want to spend my time in the air shaking and shivering with the flu, or to spend my entire vacation laid up in bed. But then again…if I felt well enough to get on the plane despite having the flu, I would definitely do it rather than incur the extra charges and have to change all my travel plans.

On his blog, Christopher Elliot offers a solution – airlines need to lower or waive the change fees during flu season. We need to stop financially penalizing those who get sick and allow them to change their flights easily, or they will continue to fly and risk spreading the flu to other passengers.