world’s best airline cathay pacific ? not to me !

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Do airlines clean airplane blankets?  I had always wondered.  I wrote this post after a recent flight, and an unfortunate discovery in my airplane blanket.  Read on, but be warned that you may never want to use one again.

I gagged when I read the headline (a reflex that will make more sense in a moment).

Cathay Pacific named World’s Best Airline in Annual Skytrax Awards (July 2014)

I used to think that Cathay was a fantastic airline….until the incident. The incident occurred on the evening of June 23rd, 2014, upon boarding flight 889 from New York to Vancouver. I was particularly looking forward to this flight because my husband had drawn the short straw and would be sitting between the kids in seat B, while I was going to be across the aisle in seat D. I was elated at the possibility of actually being able to watch a movie in peace, only needing to be on duty to take the kids to the bathroom.

Up until this point, I was a huge fan of Cathay Pacific and especially this route. While most North American routes have been stripped bare of extras, this one has entertainment systems in the back of every seat with complimentary movies, headphones, a blanket, a choice of meals and even complimentary wine – in economy !  I would find myself saying things like. ‘We’re off to New York…….on the Cathay flight’.  I can’t think of any other time I have bragged about an airline so unabashedly.

On this ill fated night, I settled into my seat, plugged my headphones in and took my blanket out of its sealed package. Please note the word sealed, which it most definitely was. As I placed it over my body, I noticed an odd smell. ‘This blanket smells really weird.‘ I commented to my husband, pulling it up to my face for another sniff. Just then, I put my hand in something wet. ‘What is that?’ my husband asked, sounding rather alarmed. I looked down and my blanket was covered in VOMIT.  Yes, some other traveler’s vomit was all over the blanket that I had taken out of a sealed package and placed over my body. I screeched and threw it on the aisle floor.

A horrified flight attendant quickly went into damage control, whisking away the evidence and providing me with a dozen or so moist towelettes. I raced to the bathroom to give my hands a surgeon’s scrubbing. Exiting the lavatory I noticed that the flight attendants had now formed a huddle in the galley, likely trying to figure out how to handle this situation. I was not upset with them, as this could hardly be considered their fault. The flight manager offered me an upgrade to the only other available seat, which happened to be in Premium Economy (I passed because I didn’t want to leave my husband stuck with the kids), and I did receive this conciliatory box of chocolates, clearly reserved as a peace offering for flyers who get the unlucky barfy blanket. I haven’t opened the sealed box yet. Lord only knows what could be lurking inside.

Cathy Chocolates

But how, one must ask, could a vomit covered blanket end up unwashed and resealed in a bag sitting on a warm airplane? I can’t think of a more perfect breeding ground for bacteria. I’ll admit that during this ordeal, the hypochondriac in me wondered if I would be patient #1 of the next pandemic. Upon filing a written complaint with the airline I was later offered the following explanation:

‘…we appreciate your concerns as it is a matter of personal hygiene and can understand the situation should certainly not have occurred, as we do recognise that it is our responsibility to maintain better control of our cleaning contractors, and we will be taking this matter up with them.’

‘It is standard requirement for each aircraft and the amenities to be cleaned during its transit or stopover at each port and it is regrettable that this was not the case on this occasion.’

In the end, after several back and forth emails,  I have been offered a ‘one-sector one-class upgrade, subject to seat availability at the time of check-in, on any Cathay Pacific flight’. I have yet to reply, although I wouldn’t be entirely surprised if Cathay decides to rescind that offer shortly after I press ‘Publish’ and ‘Share’ on this post.  One thing is for certain though, my love affair with this airline is over. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I would never fly with them again, but if you bump into me on a flight, I may look more like this lady.  Not fashionable, but secure in the knowledge that my blanket is clean.

best airplane blanket


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