Flight attendants on an American Airlines aircraft complained about headaches due to an "odor in the cabin" following the Airbus A330's arrival in Orlando just before midnight Monday, the airline has confirmed.
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And according to Service Difficulty Reports filed with the Federal Aviation Administration, the aircraft has suffered at least three fume incidents, including the aforementioned one, in the past three months: The aircraft "experienced a dirty sock odor" on November 23, according to one of the SDRs, and then five days later, on November 28, flight attendants said they "smelled fumes," on the aircraft, according to another report filed.
The eight flight attendants who staffed flight 1868 -- originating in Charlotte and carrying 89 passengers and 10 crew members -- were evaluated and cleared by paramedics at the airport, according to an American Airlines spokesperson. But seven "insisted" they be transported to a hospital.
The flight attendants were released a few hours later, the spokesperson said, adding that none of the passengers were transported to a hospital.
The A330 is currently undergoing a "thorough maintenance inspection," but American has not yet identified what caused the incident, nor has it ruled out any possible causes, the airline said.
"The health and welfare of our crews and customers continues to be our top priority at American Airlines," the airline said in a statement. "We take cabin odor issues seriously and have devoted extensive efforts over time, including working with aircraft, engine and auxiliary power unit manufacturers, to address these types of concerns."
The statement continues, "Our Technical Operations team actively monitors and conducts in-depth inspections whenever a cabin odor event is reported by one of our crew members. Our employees are encouraged to report any issues so that we can make improvements to their work environment."
According to a study conducted at Kansas State University, the average rate of smoke/oil/fumes incidents is 0.2 incidents per 1000 flights. According to the flight attendants union, there were 59.69 million departures over the 6-year period studied (2007-2012). Do the math, and that works out to more than 5.45 incidents per day.
"The issue of oil-contaminated bleed air in the cabin continues to be a serious threat for crews to become impaired/incapacitated in-flight, and cause long-term and disabling health effects," said Association of Flight Attendants-CWA president Sara Nelson, adding that because of their physical activity and resulting elevated respiratory rates, flight attendants are at higher risk than passengers.
Nelson added, "We must all demand regulation of cabin air quality to protect flight crews and passengers."