New guidance warning all coroners in England and Wales of the need for additional tests to take place where the cause of death is suspected to relate to toxic cabin air on board aircraft should be a catalyst for a public inquiry, Unite, the UK’s largest union representing cabin crew, said today (Wednesday 17 October).

The new guidance follows an unprecedented letter of concern in April this year from the senior coroner in the inquest into the death of Matthew Bass, a much loved member of Unite and British Airways cabin crew.

Following the inquest the senior coroner wrote the letter of concern to the chief coroner asking him to advise all coroners of the need for the additional tests in cases where toxic cabin air is a suspected cause of death. Significantly the senior coroner in his letter recognised that exposure to toxic cabin air may lead to a clinical impact on the body.

Unite, which is currently taking over 100 legal cases on behalf of cabin crew who have been involved in fume events or suffered ill heath from suspected toxic cabin air, understands that the guidance has now been issued to all coroners in England and Wales.

Commenting Unite assistant general secretary for legal services Howard Beckett said: “This is unprecedented guidance to all coroners in England and Wales and follows the recognition that toxic cabin air may have an impact on the body which leads to ill health.

“It now means that all coroners are aware of toxic cabin air and should commit to additional testing when faced with a death involving a frequent flyer who dies in unexplained or complex circumstances.

“Toxic cabin air is real and is damaging lives. Additional testing will provide a greater understanding of its harmful effects on cabin crew and other frequent flyers, while giving a deceased’s loved ones the answers that they need.

“The new guidance should act as a catalyst for a public inquiry into toxic cabin air which is an issue the airline industry has consistently sought to brush under the carpet.

“It’s time the airline industry faced up to its responsibilities and dealt with toxic cabin air.”


For more information please contact Alex Flynn Unite head of media and campaigns on 020 3371 2066 or 07967 665869

Notes to editors:

  • Unite represents workers in Britain and Ireland with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.