Written by Jessica Doyle, 9NEWS Now & wusa9.com
WASHINGTON, DC (WUSA) — We’ve heard about airline delays causes by a number of factors; mechanical issues, weather problems, traffic gridlock at the airport. But earlier this month, one DC resident and regular flier faced a type of airline delay she has never encountered before.
Miami to Reagan National Airport, an American Airlines flight Alissa Kempler says she will never forget. She says “At the end of the day I think it ended up being an hour and a half delay.”
The flight crew was dealing with a group of unwelcome passengers, an unusual delay: Delayed by roaches.
A stewardess told Kempler “There are roaches on the plane.” She found out “there are actually 50 roaches and they found a colony on a curtain between first class and the pilots.” Kempler says “we spent the next two and a half hours or at least I did, curled up in my seat thinking ‘how many cockroaches are going to be in my bag when I get out?'”
American Airlines’ spokesman Tim Smith tells 9NEWS NOW that “infestations are very rare but not unprecedented.” Smith says all of the planes are treated regularly by pest control companies. The planes have outside panels removed once a month to give maintenance crews better access and if a problem is detected, it will be treated during the next lay-over.
Unfortunately, it’s hard for airlines or any service that opens its doors to the public to guarantee a cockroach-free environment. Missy Henriksen of the National Pest Management Association says the places you’d most likely see cockroaches on board include “in the bins that hold the luggage or just around the humans that are traveling on the airliner. But they’re also going to be looking for food sources so it would not be uncommon to find them in the galley where the meals are being prepared.”
And of course roaches are notoriously hard to kill. Henriksen says, “They can live for up to a month without their heads.”
Not only are cockroaches nature’s little tanks, these unwanted stowaways can also pose some potential health hazards. Henriksen says ” cockroaches create allergens that then can cause asthma attacks in children and adults.” She says they can also transmit E coli and salmonella.
When Kempler got home, she had some help unpacking. Alissa says “everything was fine. I have a little Westie, thankfully, who was ready to go in case something was there. She was very inquisitive, so I made sure she was interested in the bag in case something would run out.”
If you are worried that a cockroach or other pest could have invaded your luggage, the National Pest Management Association recommends these steps: