Howard Beckett, Unite assistant general secretary for legal affairs, will tomorrow (Tuesday 17 September) accuse the airline industry of a ‘cloak of silence’ over toxic cabin air and fume events on board jet airliners.

Speaking at the International Aircraft Cabin Air Conference, Howard Beckett will call on the airline industry to clean up its act by using safer oil to lubricate jet engines and fitting cabin air filters on board planes.

The two-day conference, starting tomorrow at Imperial College in London, will hear how Unite is pursuing major airlines through the high court over toxic cabin air, while on Wednesday Pall Aerospace will present the results of its final ground test of their new total cabin air filtration system.

Unite is currently supporting 51 high court actions against five UK airlines after independent expert evidence concluded that the air in most commercial airline cabins can cause irreversible neurological damage and chronic illness among susceptible individuals.

The union backed claims allege that expert medical evidence shows long term exposure to cabin air or to high dose ‘fume events’ can lead to pilots and crew members developing chronic ill health and life threatening conditions.

The expert evidence for the court, relied upon in the claims supported by Unite, reveals how fumes from jet engine bleed air used to pressurise airline cabins contains a mix of toxic compounds including organophosphates and TCP.

The 51 court cases involve pilots and cabin crew working for easyJet, British Airways, Thomas Cook, Jet2 and Virgin Atlantic. Unite is urging members involved in a fume event to get in touch and report it to its fume event register here.

Speaking ahead of the conference Unite assistant general secretary for legal affairs Howard Beckett said: “The airline industry cannot continue to hide from the issue of toxic cabin air whilst placing the health and safety of aircrew at risk. The cloak of silence must be lifted.

“Independent expert evidence concludes that air on board jet planes can contain a toxic mix of chemicals and compounds that potentially damage the nervous system and may lead to chronic irreversible health problems in susceptible individuals.

“We need a public inquiry into the extent of fume events and toxic cabin air. The airline industry must start to take responsibility and clean up the cabin air on jet planes by using safer oil to lubricate jet engines and fitting cabin air filters on board planes.

“We would urge anyone involved in a fume event to log it on our fume event register.”

For more information journalists only please contact Alex Flynn Unite head of media and campaigns on 020 3371 2066 or 07967 665869 [email protected]

Notes to editors:

  • Aircraft Cabin Air Conference 2019 - Imperial College, Kensington, London, SW7 2AZ - 17-18 September 2019 - full agenda
  • Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.