In an industry shakeup, EasyJet is fitting its airplanes with filters to stop toxic fumes from entering passenger cabins and cockpits. This passive acknowledgement of what is called “aerotoxic syndrome” goes against other airlines who have long denied such a condition exists.
EasyJet told The Sunday Times that they were working with commercial supplier, Pall Aerospace, after “health concerns” had led them to “develop and design a new cabin air filtration system.”
The concern is over when flights are in high-altitude, the atmosphere is too thin to breathe so compressed air – called “bleed air” – is drawn from the plane’s engines. The air is then cooled and funneled into passenger cabins and the cockpit. However, the air is not filtered and can become contaminated from faults in the engine seals, causing possible leaks of engine oil and hydraulic fluids. The Australian reports that “some air is then recirculated through a filter, but a typical aircraft cabin consists of half recirculated filtered air and half unfiltered bleed air.”
A reported 292 incidents of fumes or smoke in British aircrafts were recorded between June 2014 and May 2015, with illness reported in 96 of them.
Though airlines admit cabin fumes can result in discomfort, they state that independent studies have found “concerns about significant risk to the health of airline passengers and crew are not substantiated.”
While EasyJet refuses to take a hard stance on the syndrome, former British Airways captain Tristan Loraine, who claims toxic cabin air forced him from his job, is proud of the steps EasyJet is taking to protect their passengers from possible dangerous fumes.
“This is the first public acknowledgment by an airline of a problem which this industry, including my own airline, has spent decades denying. I congratulate EasyJet for having the vision and courage which no other airline had,” Loraine said.
This positive announcement follows a few EasyJet controversies including when smoke filled the cockpit after takeoff, and one concerning a canceled flight that left a plane full of passengers stranded in Marrakesh.
Those on board the canceled flight posted on Twitter about the incident – stating that “racially abusive” drunk people were allowed to board the plane, resulting in “vomiting on [the] outbound flight.”
EasyJet responded to the tweet, saying they took the allegation of misconduct seriously.