The coughing epidemic on planes

(Photo: Mr Stabile / Flickr)

(Photo: Mr Stabile / Flickr)

[From BAT reader JM:] I wanted to get this off my chest and thought it might make an interesting blog post for you…

I just flew back to SFO from Cancun, most of the way on Delta. Great service with a smile—I was impressed.

However there was lots of coughing going on- I felt surrounded by a coven of coughers.

I arrived back in SF at 5:30pm, went to bed and then woke at 4 am with a sore throat—and a cold coming on.  As always, I hit the cold hard with zinc lozenges, anti-inflammatories, lots of rest immediately, Vicks on the bottom of my feet, chicken soup, etc. I’m glad to say that I am pretty much over it, fortunately.

But…I found it curious that the flight attendants (for their own health, if not the passengers) don’t announce something like this during cold and flu season:

“If you have a cough, as a courtesy to those around you over the duration of the flight:  cover your mouth, cough into your elbow or your collar, not your hands.”

Maybe they could sell cough drops—or even give them away to ill-prepared passengers. Maybe pass out handkerchiefs for people to cough or sneeze into? The effort would be well worth the trouble and expense, and build goodwill for the airline.

If I had cough drops, I would have given them out gladly.

For everyone’s ears and nerves, don’t you think this is a concern, especially now that the flu epidemic seems to be escalating?

You travel much more than I do, so I’m curious to know if this has ever been addressed. Would love to have some flight attendants weigh in. OK, I’m done with my rant. :)


Thanks JM! You are onto something here. There was a cougher/hacker behind me all the way from Tokyo last night! The hacking, sneezing and wheezing does get a bit tedious, especially on overnight flights. I think this would be an excellent opportunity for an airline to team up with Vicks, Kleenex, Handi-wipes or Hanes Handkerchiefs and help put a muzzle on the flu. Virgin? United? Are you reading The BAT?

What do you think? Have you noticed coughing getting worse? Have you ever been stuck in an embarrassing coughing fit, and would have welcomed a cough drop from a flight attendant? Please leave your comments below.