Health & Wellness In-Flight Experience

5 Ways to Avoid Bedbugs on Planes

Sorry to give you one more thing to worry about while flying, but bedbug infestations have recently broken out in the sky. It turns out the pests love infrequently cleaned planes nearly as much as they do hotel rooms. I interviewed Dr. Richard Cooper, the Senior Director of Service for Terminix, to find out how you can protect yourself from bedbugs on planes.

Educate Yourself

It’s hard to avoid bedbugs if you don’t know what they look like. Dr. Cooper advises, “These insects are wingless, range in color from a light brown as immatures to a reddish-brown as adults, and range in size from as small as 1/32 of an inch upon hatching from the egg to a quarter-inch as adults. All stages are visible [to] the naked eye.”

Although you should be alarmed if you find any type of bug crawling on your seat, knowing what a bedbug looks like can help your case for switching seats—no one wants to mess with bedbugs.

If you find one, alert a flight attendant immediately and see if you can move, ideally to a section of the plane that’s far away from the infected row. Dr. Cooper also recommends capturing the insect so the airline has evidence that it was, in fact, a bedbug aboard its aircraft.

[st_related]How to Fight Bedbugs: 8 Surefire Ways to Prevent Bedbugs When You Travel[/st_related]

Try a Seat Cover

Although bedbugs can live on clothing, they can’t actually bite through most fabrics, so it may be worth trying a disposable seat cover like this one. (Note: Terminix has not evaluated this product and would not comment on its effectiveness.)

Pick the Right Airline

If you can, opt for an airline that uses planes with vinyl seats. According to Dr. Cooper, “Bedbugs prefer textured surfaces, such as fabric, to those that are smooth, like vinyl—so fabric environments where these pests can stay out of sight are more likely to foster a successful bedbug population. However, it’s important to note that the type of seat doesn’t increase the likelihood of bedbugs being introduced in the first place.”

[st_related]One Surefire Way to Spot Bedbugs in Your Hotel Room[/st_related]

As for specific airlines, according to Thrillist and Fox5NY, Air India has had multiple reports of bedbugs on its planes, including in business class … eeek. Bedbugs on planes have also been reported on British Airways and United Airlines in the past.

Exercise Caution Off the Plane as Well

Unfortunately, it’s not just planes you have to worry about. You need to be vigilant on your cab, subway, or bus ride to the airport as well, since bedbugs can be found on all forms of mass transportation.

[st_related]Bedbugs: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know But Were Too Disgusted to Ask[/st_related]

What to Do If You See Bedbugs on Planes

Your number one priority should be making sure that you don’t bring the bedbugs into your home after getting off a plane. “The most important thing for passengers concerned about bedbugs is isolating and addressing their luggage and belongings upon returning home,” explains Dr. Cooper. “Place luggage inside of a sealed plastic bag or another container that can prevent them from spreading, launder belongings in a hot washer or dryer as permitted by clothing care instructions, and place items that tolerate heat but cannot be laundered into a portable heat chamber designed for this purpose. Doing so will greatly reduce the likelihood that travelers inadvertently introduce bedbugs into their home.”

Traveling? Consider Our Favorite Carry-On Options

For info on these editor-selected items, click to visit the seller’s site. Things you buy may earn us a commission.

More from SmarterTravel:


Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2018. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

Caroline Morse Teel is a Senior Editor with SmarterTravel. Follow her on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline for photos from around the world. 

By Caroline Morse Teel

Unfortunately for her bank account, Principal Editor Caroline Morse Teel is powerless to resist a good flight deal. Follow her on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline.

Caroline joined Boston-based SmarterTravel in 2011 after living in Ireland, London, and Manhattan. She's traveled to all seven continents, jumped out of planes, and bungeed off bridges in the pursuit of a good story. She loves exploring off-the-beaten path destinations, anything outdoorsy, and all things adventure.

Her stories have also appeared online at USA Today, Business Insider, Huffington Post, Yahoo,, TripAdvisor, Buzzfeed, Jetsetter, Oyster, Airfarewatchdog, and others.

The Handy Item I Always Pack: "Earplugs. A good pair has saved my sleep and sanity many times!"

Ultimate Bucket List Experience: Hiking Mount Kilimanjaro.

Travel Motto: "Don't be boring."

Aisle, Window, or Middle Seat: "Aisle (when the first class private suite isn't available)."

E-mail her at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *