Ever been fumigated on a plane before?

Hunting through plane photos, I came across one I hadn’t added to my collection of travel aircraft. Part of what I like in traveling is to check out planes of other countries and the often unique towers at airports. On this particular adventure, it wasn’t the planes or airports that were memorable, it was the process.

South African Airways
South African Airways

This is the South African Airways plane we took to Johannesburg from New York several years back. Aircraft in the background are an Emirates, a blue KLM, a Swiss, an Air India, and a conga line of aircraft either taxing for takeoff or heading for the terminal. On average, the flight takes around 18 hours to South Africa. While the trip is long, the airline catered to the passengers as well as most overseas flights, and we did our best to stretch our legs and maintain the blood flow. The jaunt required a refueling stop in Dakar, the capital of Senegal, Africa (where a few passengers would deplane, too). Once on the ground in Senegal, our hopes for a break to stand were crushed. The crew informed us to remain seated for the entire stopover.

We soon discovered they had a good reason for this. Down each aisle flight attendants strolled with little canisters held high. From them sprayed a rather foul white mist. It took a minute for my brain to register they were fumigating the air in plane (and us along with it).  Evidently the Senegalese worried about tiny creatures (flies and mosquitoes) invading their airspace. Needless to say they didn’t inform the uninitiated like us before the trip. Not that I wouldn’t have gone, but sheesh, at least I would have been prepared for it. On the return trip I covered my head with a blanket- it helped some, but hubby thought I looked silly. So he might have been right (for once), but can I help it if I have a sensitive nose?

By the way, we loved South Africa and would go back in a heartbeat (once we’ve been to the other gazillion places on our bucket list)…but telling about that country will be for another post.

I’ve heard airlines no longer fumigate, but if anyone knows differently or has experienced it, please shout out. :  ) I’ve also heard a good number of airlines now have direct flights to South Africa and no longer stop in Dakar. If anyone else has weird flying experiences to share, click on the comment tag near the title above.


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  1. I’ve never been sprayed down on a plane, but I’ve been in the Kansas factory where most of those sprays are packaged. It’s actually a huge market worldwide with many countries having very specific insect fears.

  2. Just flew from DC to Joburg and back earlier this month (with the stop in Dakar) on South African Airways. They fumigate the plane after the cabin has been sealed back up in both directions, so it’s probably not about insects that might leave the plane in Dakar, but insects that might hop a ride out of Dakar.

    1. Thanks, Noah, I’d probably guess your assessment is correct. Someone else mentioned to me that the US and other countries have health, etc requirements on aircraft coming in from some countries.

  3. Just got back into Washington DC February 2014 from a flight to Cape Town where we refueled in Dakar, and the spraying in both directions continues. I wondered if they were spraying for malaria mosquitoes.

    Also, there was heavy security in Dakar when we landed for refueling from Jo’burg on the way to DC, where after the deplaning passengers in Dakar left, the remaining passengers had to empty the overheads, and security checked for left packages plus checked every empty seat under, in front of, and even behind the headrest. Somehow made me feel more paranoid instead of safer!

    1. Wow, while still in the air. Guess different airlines have different procedures. Now matter how or where it’s done, definitely no fun. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  4. My wife returned from Bogota to Los Angeles 3/02/16 on Avianca, direct non-stop from BOG and informed me the FA’s sprayed / fumigated/ disinfected their new 787 and told them it was a WHO requirement! Possibly some concern with Zika outbreak, but unstated obviously.
    Haven’t been able to find either WHO or US DOT advisory re: on board spraying requirement now, but certainly an unpleasant experience for my wife and most of her fellow travelers from her observation. Have read that US determined this procedure was not all that effective back in the 90’s but can’t verify this either.

  5. I went to Africa about 15 yrs ago…on return trip they not only fumigated, but they came on with giant sprayers! ..and they were in FULL PPE’s!!!…masks and all!! …i was horrified…they didnt even warn us. ..and they didnt I wonder if this is what caused my wheezing and anaphylaxis???

    1. Thanks for stopping by. I had some of the same safety doubts, so believe me on the way back from our visit when we went through Dakar, I was prepared and threw a blanket over my head.

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