Passenger Sues Spirit Airlines Over Smelly Plane – And This Could Make Aircraft Safer

In 2013 Airbus warned of fume events from failure to clean environmental systems following leaks, and suggesting “A clean APU means clean cabin air.”

There are scores of Airbus narrowbody fume incidents across diverse carriers — including some fume occurrences leading to flight diversions and hospitalized passengers and crew — across JetBlue, Austrian, British Airways, American Airlines, Spirit, Lufthansa, easyJet, Aer Lingus, Jetstar, Germanwings, Turkish, Air France, Delta and others.

These are outlier events, and aren’t limited to Airbus planes though seem to happen more frequently on Airbus A320 family aircraft. Regulators may not be doing enough about it.

One passenger, though, is taking regulation into their own hands through the courts.

On July 27, 2018 a woman experienced a “noxious, burning odor” on Spirit Airlines NK779 flight from New York LaGuardia to Fort Lauderdale that diverted to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. She says it caused her “serious and permanent injuries.” Passengers received medical treatment “for headaches, nausea and difficulty breathing.” The woman bringing the suit had to be hospitalized.

The complaint accuses Spirit Airlines of being “negligent, careless and reckless” for failing to prevent the dangerous smell from harming its passengers and for failing to help Randall after the incident.

…Since the diverted flight in 2018, Randall claims she has received more medical care and treatment “for which expenses have been and will continue to be incurred,” the lawsuit says.

Copyright: boarding1now / 123RF Stock Photo

Are the fumes something that were avoidable, and something that the airline failed to address? Fume events certainly aren’t new.

Tort law is often the most powerful regulator of business behavior. Advocates of tort reform argue that it is too powerful. It’s a decentralized form of regulation that citizens can engage in. This lawsuit will be one to watch because if passengers can successfully sue over fume events that will spur action to address them in ways that regulators have not.

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, 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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  1. Hi there,
    Wow, I’ve heard it all now… suing over fumes lol….. Sadly, here in America, you can sue for anything which I think is ridiculous. And, I don’t think all consumer complaints warrant legislation. I hope this get’s thrown out or is forced into mediation. Nikki

  2. @Nikki
    How would you propose this issue be handled, assuming, that both the carriers and regulatory agencies are moving slowly towards a known resolution?

  3. I could have told you this would happen when Spirit allowed that passenger to bring their emotional support skunk aboard – whew!

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