Flight Attendants Shamed American to Clean Dirty Air Vents on Planes

I frequently refer to the legacy US Airways fleet as a ‘basket of deplorables’. We’re four years into the merger and they never added seat power or extra legroom seats to most of the planes. The old tattered first class seats on A321s have gotten new seat covers, but they didn’t even clean the seats themselves from the scuff marks and pen drawings that have accumulated over the years.

That’s just what we can see. Here’s something I hadn’t considered: the air vents on those planes.

An airline that invests heavily in share repurchases, reservation system and frequent flyer program integration (and reprogramming for devaluation), revenue-based mileage-earning and basic economy… hasn’t been bothering to clean the air vents?

Here’s what the flight attendants union has to say on the subject in last Friday’s APFA newsletter:

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. Following AA is like following the news about Trump. Just when you think it can’t get any crazier or more insane, when you think you’ve hit rock bottom, the bottom opens up and you keep falling.

  2. It is not just the air vents that need cleaning. The air filters also need replacing on a regular basis. I am i the HVAC industry and have first hand knowledge that air filters on planes are rarely cleaned or replaced. That is where all the dirt and debris on the vents comes from.

  3. @steve, so well put…SO. WELL. PUT!!!

    I’m one of “those people” that peanut afficianodos collectively groan over whenever the announcement is made that their peanut party has a killjoy aboard…

    …with my apologies past, present, next week and the week after if some of u just so happen to be on my upcoming flights, or forever in advance, too, to those for whom my severe allergic reaction to many things that have “nut” in their name, and ESPECIALLY peanuts, spoils the fun…

    …trust me, I only wish this was NOT the case since the sickness that accompanies exposure to peanuts is ANYTHING but fun… ☹️

    …and yes, even just the faintest smell causes me to regurgitate uncontrollably just like that…just ask anyone, friend or otherwise who has seen it happen

    Anyhow, and getting back on topic (but there IS a reason I noted that…), because peanuts and peanut dust can trigger at a minimum a reaction that’s likely to find many people around me, plus myself, coated in vomit that doesn’t stop until I’m dry heaving after whatever is inside me has exploded out in an at times projectile like fashion (no joke)..

    …I must do a very thorough, as in practically like “White Glove” inspection worthy wipe down of my immediate seat area…

    …including, and especially, those nozzles where the air blows down with the force of a strong storm…

    So, for those who may be a little “OCD” for other reasons, those nifty rubbing alcohol wipes that Rite Aid sells in discrete, individually, foil wrapped, packets come in very handy for those who may NOT need to wipe down things to prevent some sort of sudden, and without any warning, inflight messes (or worse) that I’m always at risk of causing by any errant exposure to peanuts or peanut dust for situations just like this…

    …and TRUST ME if I ever took and posted pics of what those wipes usually look like once I’m done with the REQUIRED wipe down, a great many people would end up doing too if they saw, what I often see…

    Honey, more often than not, it ain’t pretty…that’s all I’ll say about that…

    Oh, and on the subject of American Airlines, my partner & I gave up flying this awful airline two years ago next week…

    …so, if American is now even worse than what we ordinarily see (except a United flight this past April a few days after the Dr. Dao dragging where even for an after 8pm departure our clearly ancient 737-700 was immaculate in ways not seen in practically decades…) on the airlines NOT American that we do fly (Southwest, Delta, United, Jetblue in that order domestic, and foreign anything for internationally usually except to Mexico City which is AM or UA), then yowsa, it must be atrociously bad…

    …which, of course, would NOT surprise us in the least given how as far as we’re concerned, American is now so bad, it’s as if it doesn’t even exist anymore…

  4. [NOTE: unfortunately, there’s no edit function available, and try as I might to be writer, plus successful proofreader AND editor before hitting the “post” button, a combination of middle aged eyes (that were never really good since early childhood to begin with), small screens on hand held devices, now compounded by “virtual keys”, too, plus text that scrolls up and disappears from view that sometimes does not want to scroll up and down even when one wants it to…sometimes leads to things NOT seen until AFTER posting when everything can then be seen and properly proofread, but alas, NOT edited…

    …this is one such example, with the excerpted portion below updated and corrected to reflect what was missed before posting the above…

    …with my apologies…I’m trying to get things better organized, better edited, and more enjoyable to read as best as I can, as fast as I can…

    …it’s been more than a decade since I last wrote regularly about airlines for a publication I was honored and privileged to have spent several years writing for (c.1999-2004), and back then I had an amazing Editor who had a shot at reading copy submitted before anyone else did!!!]

    +++ corected and updated portion follows below:

    So, for those who may be a little “OCD” for other reasons, or no reason at all other than hoping to reduce their chances of catching any of the pesky colds (or worse) that many of us occasionally get shortly after flying, those nifty rubbing alcohol wipes that Rite Aid sells in discrete, individually, foil wrapped, packets come in very handy for those who may NOT need to wipe down things to prevent some sort of sudden, and without any warning, inflight messes (or worse) that I’m always at risk of causing by any errant exposure to peanuts or peanut dust for situations just like this as I MUST do for mine, and others’ seated nearby, protection…

    …but WANT to give a quickie (but perhaps, not quite “White Glove” inspection worthy) wipe down as soon as they get to their seats before settling in for their flight…

    …and TRUST ME if I ever took and posted pics of what those wipes usually look like once I’m done with the REQUIRED wipe down, a great many people would end up doing this, too, if they saw, what I often see…

    …or of course, if they try this once and then see some of the things I see, or even just how darkened the wipe is when they’re done and didn’t quite see some of the things they’ll eventually see if they make pre-flight wipe downs using those nifty rubbing alcohol wipes (or similar) part of their regular “must dos” whenever they fly…

    Oh, and PS: now that the loos are so small barely anyone, even “Fivel the Mouse”, can fit into the,, with sinks smaller than an iPhone 7+, those dandy wipes now come in very handy for any post lavatory trips, too, where one might want/need to clean their hands since unless one has teeny-tiny hands (like you-know-who ), those teeny-tiny sinks in those teeny-tiny loos that are as if taken from the set of the upcoming Matt Damon movie, “Downsizing”, are useless anyway…

    …just sayin’…hehehe

  5. In the “PS” paragraph immediately above, the typo seen as “the,,”

    …SHOULD be replaced with the word “them” – as in “…barely anyone…can fit into them, with sinks smaller than…”

    The child sized micro-bathrooms, that is…

    …with apologies for the error!

  6. @Howard Miller WADR, enough already!

    I’m sure your points are heartfelt, but life is too short for your lengthy, and then lengthy correction, posts.

    Peace and best wishes.

  7. @HowardMiller~ with Dec. 31 fast closing in, you just got your entry in in time!
    That is for American Drama Queen 2017! Competition has been stiff, but you’re in with a very good chance.

  8. That USAir/American West management (because lets be honest that’s who’s running AA these days) wasn’t cleaning the air vents isn’t a surprise. This is the same group that turned their Terminal in LGA into a cess pool and nickel and dimes everything to death. It’s a wonder that things like the new flagship lounges happened at all.

    Great article. Let’s hope it gets more play.

  9. hey howard. u are ok. but shorter helps. … and we will pack am air wipes from now on. … are the embraraers equally drty air challenged, folks?

  10. Flight attendants unions are prone to overreact, so we have no way of knowing the real scope of the problem — if any — with dirty air vents. Airplane maintenance is almost ridiculously regimented (for good reason — safety), so I would be very surprised if there was some sort of standard manufacturer recommendation that AA was ignoring. Perhaps the vents get dirtier than what Airbus expected? Or perhaps the FA’s are overreacting? As outsiders, we don’t really know, but of course the memo makes for good, sensationalistic fodder for your blog.

    The only reason I would think there could be any problem with the vents is that we all know that aircraft cleaning isn’t always what it should be. Airlines obviously focus on safety-mandated items first, and “appearance” issues last. Like I was just on a UA aircraft last week that had more than 2 hours on the ground before my flight. I was surprised to get to my seat and find crumbs all over it, and tissues and other trash in the seat back pocket. If one legacy airline could “forget” to do a routine ground cleaning, I could believe it possible that another isn’t properly cleaning the air vents. But unless you did your own investigation, which would include talking to AA management, I don’t know how you’d arrive at any fact-based conclusion.

  11. It is interesting to read this take on this action. This could also be viewed positively as a kaizen event: the line-level employees saw an improvement that was needed, communicated it up to management, and a remedy was implemented. Many organizations (especially in manufacturing) strive for this type of involvement.

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