- Fume events can occur on flights for various reasons, such as oil leaks or mechanical issues.
- Familiarize yourself with the symptoms of air quality, fume, and hypoxic events, so you know what to do if you suspect one is happening.
- More resources are available on the Air Quality Subcommittee page of the AFA Alaska website.
As Flight Attendants, our top priority is ensuring everyone onboard the aircraft has a safe and comfortable experience. However, despite our best efforts, unexpected situations can still arise. One such situation is a fume event, which can be caused by smoke, fumes, or a strong odor in the cabin. Fume events can occur for various reasons, such as oil leaks, hydraulic fluid leaks, or other mechanical issues. It’s essential to learn how to identify a fume event and what to do if one takes place to ensure the safety and well-being of yourself, fellow crewmembers, and passengers. To that end, we’d like to offer some reminders about what to do if you suspect a fume event is happening.
How To Identify A Fume Event
- Pay attention to unpleasant/unusual odors coming from the air supply system.
- Use the FOUR S’s
- Identify the SOURCE. Is this coming from the air supply vents or a cabin item?
- Explain the SMELL. Description including strength, duration, and when it started/the phase of flight.
- Describe the SITE. Where is observed in the cabin: forward, aft, galley, etc.?
- What are the SYMPTOMS? See the list of possible symptoms below. Does anyone need medical attention?
What To Do If Involved In An Air Quality/Fume Event
- On The Ground
- Notify Pilots, if presentDeplane, if possibleIf you have symptoms (see below), call MedAire Crew Support at (800) 350-4390; have the CSA call paramedics, if needed.
- DO NOT return to the aircraft until it has been cleared Maintenance. You are not a sniff tester.
- In the Air
- If you have symptoms of hypoxia (see below), immediately don oxygen.
- Notify Pilots
- Contact MedLink
- If you can, fill out the Cabin Air Quality Reporting Form in the stationary kit and give it to Pilots.
- Call the AFA Air Quality Reporting Hotline as soon as possible at (206) 457-2010, option 3
- Notify Inflight management by calling scheduling and asking for the Manager on Duty (MOD)
- It’s essential to familiarize yourself with the symptoms of both quality/fume/hypoxic events.
What Are The Possible Symptoms Of An Air Quality/Fume/Hypoxia Event?
- Fatigue or weakness
- Slowed thinking/delayed reactions
- Tingling fingers/lips/toes/numbness
- Irritated eyes/throat/nose
- Abnormal taste
- Trouble breathing
- Multiple other physiological/neurological symptoms (some may have delayed onset)
Our AFA Air Safety, Health, & Security Committee (ASHSC) has developed resources to assist you if you have been in a suspected fume event. You can access this information by clicking here.
Other Things To Keep In Mind
- If multiple Flight Attendants and/or passengers are experiencing symptoms (see above), you may be experiencing an air quality/hypoxia event.
- When experiencing the above symptoms, communicate the possibility of an air quality event with the crew, including the pilots.
- It is essential to communicate with the pilots. If they don’t document an air quality/fume event in the logbook, Maintenance will not inspect the aircraft.
- Different people may experience varying symptoms and severities.
- Symptoms of exposure to Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) in engine oil and hydraulic fluid are similar to carbon monoxide exposure. It’s possible to mistake symptoms of VOC exposure for carbon monoxide exposure.