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John Deiner

Sometimes the nastiest topics come up in our weekly online chats (held most Mondays at 2 p.m., if you haven't checked them out before). And almost always, the nastiest topics generate the most response.

Take last Monday's chat. Please. Here's what a reader posted:

"I was on a tiny commuter jet recently, and for the first time in a long time, got air sick. The flight attendant was, shall we say, less than helpful. I get that it's not pleasant, but since they put those nice bags in everyone's seat pocket, it must happen to more people than just me. She told me to carry the bag with me into the airport and throw it out there. "

I jumped on top of the subject and was properly disgusted, though gleefully so. Numerous readers came forth with their own tales of woe, and in many flight attendants didn't come out looking too great.

But what is the policy? If you get sick on a plane, is there a protocol? I asked Corey Caldwell, spokeswoman for the Association of Flight Attendants, for her take. She told me that it's "customary for flight attendants to remove the vomit bag. They should put on gloves and bring a trash bag over."

The problem, Caldwell said, is that airlines aren't required to provide gloves to their attendants, and most are loath to handle vomit due to some of the biohazards involved. "Without gloves," she said, "the situation becomes much more difficult." Makes sense to me. In addition, she said there may have been other variables at work. Maybe the plane was landing and the attendant didn't have enough time. Maybe the plane was out of trash bags or didn't have a place for trash.

In any case, I feel for anyone who gets sick on an airplane. It's never happened to me, but my wife got sick one time on a flight back from Maine. (That's a great way to make two-hour flight feel like a transatlantic jaunt, by the way.) Ideally, no plane should ever be out of plastic bags, every plane should have gloves for their attendants -- and no passenger should have to sit in a dinky commuter jet with a bag of puke in their lap.

By John Deiner |  March 16, 2007; 3:52 PM ET  | Category:  John Deiner
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Ugh. And one problem with airsickness is just because you vomit once, doesn't mean you won't have another attack. I got airsick 2-3 times in the air on one private plane flight and then at least once more on the ground, and it took a full hour to get my equilibrium back. That doesn't happen to me on bigger jets, but I know the feeling, and to have airline crew that refuse to help at all is really disappointing.

Posted by: 23112 | March 16, 2007 3:23 PM

What exactly would you like the flight attendants to do? Hold your hair? Except for being a little compassionate--and there's no excuse for not being nice--and maybe fetching you a ginger ale, what exactly should they be doing for you?

Posted by: Joe | March 19, 2007 3:30 PM

I've gotten travel sick two times. One on a whale-watching boat, and once on a bus in the Pyrenees. The first one caused me to vomit. On the latter, I think it was more of a sympathy thing than motion sickness, as one woman was having dry heaves because she was travel sick. That said, I would get sick if I had to smell the odor of vomit. To me, it only makes sense for it to be removed from the passenger area as quickly as possible, and wrapped in such a way as to preclude the odor from wafting throughout the plane. What a yucky topic! I'm sooo glad that I decided to follow the family tradition of entering the law field rather than the family tradition of entering the medical field!

Posted by: Dropdead | March 19, 2007 3:34 PM

A few years ago, I was on some medication that had a side effect of pretty serious nausea. And of course, I was on it when I had to fly.

I was a nervous wreck I was going to throw up - I kept my food to a minimum and took some ginger pills and managed to get through the flight unscathed. But the whole time I kept three airsick bags in my lap and had tucked a few plastic grocery bags in my carry-on as well (to bag the bags).

I can't believe they don't stick a box of gloves on planes for the flight staff - if someone gets sick or cuts themselves or something, gloves are an absolute imperative. I'll gladly go without drink service if it means a member of the flight crew can remove filled air-sickness bags!

Posted by: Chasmosaur | March 19, 2007 3:55 PM

It is hard for me to believe that flight attendants don't have access to gloves - they are a standard part of any first aid kit. They do have those on planes, don't they?

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 5:36 PM

Joe - They should be prepared to dispose of your puke, that's what. No ginger ale or holding of hair required. (Although with hair as long as mine, I'd certainly appreciate it.)

Posted by: h3 | March 20, 2007 3:23 PM

I've had one experience with air sickness near landing from my first transatlantic flight. Now, I always check the seat pocket before take-off. And I only drink water, juice or coffee in flight--no carbonated beverages (I think turbulence and too many sodas contributed to the sickness. I like that idea above, I may stuff a blue plastic bag in my pocketbook!

Posted by: Anne | March 20, 2007 5:39 PM

It wasn't that I wanted her to frame it or anything. But maybe not say "well, what do you want ME to do." Seriously, that is what happened. I said, "Well, I didn't think I should leave it on the seat." She said, "No! Throw it away in the airport." I really just wanted a compassionate, "I'm so sorry, let me get a plastic garbage bag to tie that off in. I hope you feel better." I didn't even expect ginger ale, it was a commuter flight so nothing but coke and water. But I really would have appreciated the attendant acting like there was a procedure, not like I was a freak.

Posted by: The sick one | March 20, 2007 7:20 PM

The airline should provide the flight attendants with appropriate protective equipment, and then force them to remove the waste. It surely was unpleasant for the surrounding passengers. If the waste had spilled onto another person, that would cause more unpleasantness, biowaste problems, and airline liability.

Posted by: Dominick | March 21, 2007 2:21 PM

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