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Alaska Airlines Confirms Cabin Air Contamination

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As we reported yesterday, Alaska Airlines has been differing fume and cabin air contamination write ups, along with other issues, on Virgin America Airbus aircraft and has been instructing the crew to operate the aircraft in question. Crews have been reporting these events for the last few months, some flight attendants and passengers have even been hospitalized due to cabin air contamination, and Alaska hasn’t acknowledged or attempted to resolve the issues until yesterday. Last night Vice President of In-Flight, Jeff Butler, responded to the calls from flight attendants to give appropriate priority to the safety issues being documented:

Good Evening Airbus Flight Attendants –
I’ve heard from a number of you regarding the recent air quality incidents on board our Airbus fleet. Your safety is my number one priority and your concerns have reached the highest levels of the company. Ben Minicucci recorded a video for that I wanted to share with all of you….Thank you for all you do.”

In the video, shown above, Alaska finally confirms the spike in fume events and cabin air contamination aboard the Airbus fleet and outlines a plan to “get to the root cause.” First of which is sending a fact sheet on known events to the very people who have been reporting them for months.

While Alaska plans to fix and resolve the open maintenance issues on board Virgin America planes, we thought it would be important for you as passengers (and crew) to be aware of the aircraft in question.  Here’s a current list of aircraft that reported cabin air issues that we’ve curated through information received from front-line employees:

  • N365VA – Smoke in Cabin
  • N624VA – Carbon – Fume Issues
  • N625VA – Carbon – Fume Issues
  • N637VA – Carbon – Fume Issues – Air Back Up Differed (Broken)
  • N638VA – Broken Engine Part, Fume Event
  • N640VA – Burning Plastic Smell Reported, Differed
  • N642VA – Carbon – Fume Issues
  • N838VA – Pressurization Issues
  • N854VA – Fume Issues
Why did it take months for these issues to be addressed? In an effort to stave off the added cost of acquiring an Airbus fleet (and seemingly trying to create issues to justify returning the fleet to the lessors), Alaska Airlines has instructed it’s Airbus mechanics to take some liberties when it comes to repairs. Although Alaska touts its safety motto: “Ready. Safe. Go.” it only seems to apply to their Boeing fleet, on the Virgin America side of the operation, front-line employees refer to the safety policy as: “Ready. Board. Go.” since the company is ignoring safety concerns written up on-board the aircraft.

The airline has extended the time limit on the planes “daily” inspections to the maximum FAA limit of three days. Further, they have removed the requirement for mechanics to conduct a visual walk around of the exterior of the aircraft and interior cabin. The mechanics have been told this inspection can now be once weekly.

The only thing they do “daily” (every three days now) is service engine oil and hydraulic fluid levels and check tire pressure. This practice is the bare minimum for “daily” maintenance. The airline is leaving it up to the pilots to find any mechanical malfunction, although they’re not trained mechanics. We’ve now learned speaking up and voicing distrust in the fleet and the maintenance program is being met with disciplinary action, according to a Pilot. Alaska polices employee’s private social media accounts and has suspended those who discussed and posted about the internal affairs of the company.

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