How to spot bed bugs in your airplane seat

While you may regularly inspect your hotel room for bed bugs, learning that these icky pests in your airplane seat might be news to seasoned jet-setters. But it happens more often than you think: A Canadian woman and her seven-year-old daughter ended up covered in bed bug bites after a recent British Airways flight.

Thankfully, you can take precautions to avoid becoming a bed bug’s next meal—starting with a close inspection of your seat cushion. Because bed bugs thrive at night while you sleep, you are more likely to find them on overnight and international flights. Some of the most common clues of a bed bug infestation include fecal stains, eggs, or even full-sized bugs near the cracks and crevices of the seat back cushion. You also might develop “itchy red bumps or a hive-like rash,” according to Jody Green, MD, an urban entomologist at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Here are more warning signs of bed bugs.

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How to survive a plane crash, according to science
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How to survive a plane crash, according to science

Carry-on bag

The safest thing to do with your carry-on … Is leave it on the plane. Flight crews ask you to keep your luggage clear of the aisles for a reason; in the event of an evacuation, you don’t want it blocking an escape route. With as little as 90 seconds to evacuate a burning place, the precious time spent reaching for luggage could be a life and death decision for someone. Learn about the 22 things flight attendants won’t tell you.

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Your seat

The safest place to sit on the plane … is behind the wings. A Popular Mechanics study of 20 commercial jet crashes with both fatalities and survivors found that passengers seated in the rear cabin (behind the wings) had a 69 percent chance of survival, compared with just 49 percent for those in first class. But you don’t have to sacrifice leg room for safety’s sake: exit rows are perhaps the safest place to sit on the whole plane. In the event of an evacuation, the closer you are to an exit, the higher the chance you’ll escape unscathed. Here’s how to pick the best seat on a plane for every need.

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How to sit

The safest way to sit during a crash … Is to brace yourself (literally). In a 2015 crash simulation, Boeing found that passengers who both wore their seat belts and assumed a brace position (feet flat, head cradled against their knees or the seat in front of them if possible) were likeliest to survive a crash. Seat-belted fliers who did not brace suffered serious head injuries, and those with no seat belts or bracing died on impact. Just don’t fall for these 20 air travel myths you need to stop believing.

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During a crash

The first thing you should do in a crash … is put on the oxygen mask the minute it drops. During a loss of cabin pressure, the fall in oxygen can knock you unconscious in as little as 20 seconds. Listen to your flight attendants: Always secure your oxygen mask before helping others. You can’t help if you can’t breathe. Find out about the little-known airplane feature that could save your life.

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What to wear

The safest way to dress … is un-flammably. The National Transportation Safety Board tells us that 68 percent of plane crash fatalities occur in post-crash fires, not in the initial impact. Fortunately, here’s a scenario you can plan for days in advance while you pack your suitcase: On the day you’re flying, avoid wearing flammable synthetic fibers like polyester and nylon. Instead, opt for natural materials like cotton or wool (good news if you’re a sweatpants-at-the-airport kind of person). It’s also a good idea to favor long pants (like jeans) and a long-sleeved shirt for extra protection from flames and sharp objects. Don’t miss these other 16 mistakes you need to stop making before your next flight.

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What to wear on your feet

The best shoes to wear … never leave your feet. Hassle-free flip-flops might seem like a good idea for braving airport security, but in the chaos of a crash or evacuation, they’ll only slow you down. Likewise, high heels can lead to stumbling, and may even be sharp enough to pop the inflatable exit slide. Wear a pair of comfy flats or sneakers, and keep them on your feet through the whole flight. Not only can loose shoes get in other passengers’ way and hinder your own mobility during an evacuation, but also remember that nobody wants to smell your stinky feet. And statistically, that is a far greater threat to air travel than any crash. Learn 18 more things you should never do on an airplane.

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That said, “it may be tricky to identify a bed bug because of the different sizes and coloration based on age and feeding status,” Dr. Green says. As a good rule of thumb, she says most bed bugs are reddish-brown, flat, and oval-shaped. Their sizes can range anywhere between a poppy seed and an apple seed.

Just because you can’t see any bed bugs doesn’t mean they are not there, though. To protect yourself from bites, cover any exposed skin with long pants and closed-toe shoes. Wrapping your carry-on luggage with a plastic bag or another type of sealed case can prevent hitch-hiking critters, too.

If you do manage to make it home with no bed bugs in sight, you are not off the hook quite yet. Beg bugs can’t fly or jump, so they often stow away inside of suitcases and backpacks. Unpack your luggage outside after a flight, inspecting your items one by one for any sign of bed bugs. And to do away with any hidden pests, Dr. Green suggests washing and drying all of your blankets, pillows, and clothes on high heat for 20 to 30 minutes.

Still, don’t let a fear of bed bugs keep you from sitting back and relaxing at 35,000 feet. Frequent fliers can rest assured that it “would be quite rare to have a high-level infestation on an airplane these days due to the sanitation schedules of airlines and the awareness of these blood-feeding hitchhikers,” Dr. Green said. Check out the 16 secrets bed bugs don’t want you to know, but are crucial for keeping them at bay.

See the latest in plane renovations

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JetBlue new in-flight renovations
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JetBlue new in-flight renovations

In 2018, planes updated during Phase one will get LED mood lighting and new overhead bins.

The Phase update also features a 10.1-inch HD touchscreen, 100 channels of live TV, and a large selection of on-demand programming.

The seats updated during 2018 get adjustable headrests, a dedicated water bottle holder, and in-seat power supply.
Starting in 2019, Phase two will see the addition of next-generation seats that deliver an extra inch legroom. According to JetBlue, they are the widest economy seats in the industry at 18.4 inches.

The Phase two seats will also water bottle holders and mesh storage units in addition to the traditional seatback pocket. The power plugs have also been moved to face the passenger.

Phase two planes also get a suite of new tech goodies. This includes a 10.1-inch HD touchscreen with picture-in-picture capability running an Android-based operating system. The system offers expanded TV, movie, and audio options as well as destination-specific content. Passengers will also be able to use their smart devices as a remote control.
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