All UK airlines are legally required to report any occurrences that could have, or did, endanger aircraft occupants within 72 hours. Airlines are also required to carry out appropriate levels of analysis of a potential incident and determine any further action that may help improve aviation safety. This applies to all types of occurrences including those relating to fire, smoke, fumes or smells.
Engine bleed air
We recognise that there is strong interest in fume events, particularly those that relate to 'engine bleed air', which some people have suggested could impact on people’s health. Based on the available data, occurrences relating to engine bleed air are very rare and confirmed incidents form five per cent of the total number of fume event reports we receive each year.
It is acknowledged that people who experience a fume event (of any type) may report symptoms such as irritation to the eyes, nose and throat. These symptoms usually resolve, however, once the fumes or smell have disappeared.
A number of studies have been carried out in this area, including Government-commissioned research. Long term ill health due to any toxic effect from cabin air is understood to be unlikely, although such a link cannot be ruled out.
“Our priority is always the safety of passengers and crew and we continue to work with airlines, manufacturers and international regulators to drive improvements in safety standards across the industry.
"We understand the concerns that have been raised about cabin air quality and we take very seriously any suggestions that people have suffered ill health from their experience of aviation.
"We rely on guidance from scientific experts based on the results of a number of independent studies and evidence reviews - including Government commissioned research. Long term ill health due to any toxic effect from cabin air is understood to be unlikely, although such a link cannot be ruled out.
"A recent study commissioned by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), which maintains responsibility for approving the safety of aircraft and setting aviation standards for European airlines, concluded that the air quality on flights it tested was similar or better than that observed in normal indoor environments.
“We continue to support steps to further develop understanding the air quality on board aircraft, including a further research by the European Commission being undertaken in conjunction with EASA.”