Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Help Me Howard: Air Purifiers on Planes
The list of things you can not carry on an airplane is long, and with good reason, but what if there's an item the government allows, but your airline says nope, it can not be used on our planes. It happened to one couple and their issue landed with Help me Howard and Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- The Denenbergs are no strangers to the skies.
Ileane Denenberg: "We've flown to Europe, we've flown to Israel, back and forth from New Jersey."
When they travel, Ileane and Jerry, like many frequent fliers, arm themselves with innovative ways to ward off germs.
Jerry: "You can feel that there is something coming out of the top of this."
Ileane Denenberg: "It feels like air."
They're called: Personal air purifiers. Battery operated units about the size of a cellphone that produce a small stream of clean, uncontaminated air.
Ileane Denenberg: "What it does is if anybody on the plane is coughing or sneezing or there is any bacteria floating around, what it is supposed to do, and I believe it does, is kill the bacteria."
The couple had the devices around their necks during their latest flight to New York.
Ileane Denenberg: "This male flight attendant comes to the back and looks at the two of us and says, what are those around your neck?"
Ileane Denenberg: "I said, they are for my breathing. He said, 'I'm sorry, I'm going to have to ask you to remove them.'"
The couple followed the orders and put the purifiers in their carry on luggage, then sat back and tried to figure out why they suddenly had to put them away.
Ileane Denenberg: "We've used it for the past eight years on every flight we've ever taken, nobody has ever said a word or approached us."
Further confusing them, security screeners at airports have never had a problem with the devices.
Ileane Denenberg: "If there was anything wrong with this, when we go through security, they would detect it."
Jerry: "If TSA didn't stop us with this, how bad could it really, really be?"
The TSA allows them because the agency doesn't consider air purifiers dangerous and capable of bringing down an airplane and for eight years no airline has had a problem with them either.
Ileane Denenberg: "Continental, El-Al, Delta, JetBlue, we've flown on JetBlue with these, by the way."
And it was on a JetBlue flight that the Denenbergs had to put their air purifiers away. So, who sets the rules, the airlines or the federal government, Howard?
Howard Finkelstein: "The federal government lays out the rules which are called the minimum standards. No airline can go below the standards, but it's perfectly legal for them to take more precautions."
A JetBlue spokesman told us air purifiers are not considered medical devices and may not be used onboard JetBlue aircraft at any time. They told us, we have this policy in place because there have been cases when personal air purifiers have exploded while being used by airline passengers.
The NTSB says they did investigate one case back in 2006 when a battery in a passengers air purifier exploded. No one was hurt. Howard says if you aren't happy with a policy, let the airline know.
Howard Finkelstein: "The airlines are privately owned. They listen to their customers. Don't tell a flight attendant or a pilot, contact the head of the company and let them know how you feel."
Ileane will let the airline know, because she just finished a battle with lung cancer, and wants to make sure her immune system gets all the help it can.
Jerry: "The problem is, her immune system is much lower than it's ever been, and this is what we were mostly concerned with."
Now, if you aren't sure if an airline allows a device, they post the information on their websites, or you can call and ask or do like me, wait until you get to the airport, if they don't allow it, I throw it in the garbage.
A situation got you flying by the seat of your pants? Don't carry on and on about a problem. Contact us. Pure and simple, we will help you clear the air.