Flight forced to turn around after passengers struck by mystery illness

An American Airlines flight from London to Los Angeles has today, Thursday 28 January 2016, been forced to turn around and return to Heathrow Airport after several passengers and members of crew were affected by an unidentified airborne illness.

Passengers were asked whether there were any doctors or medical professionals on board before it was decided to abort the flight, just two and a half hours into its journey to Los Angeles.

The Boeing 777 plane was diverted after a member of the cabin crew fainted, and other staff and passengers complained of feeling unwell. It has been reported that seven out of the 13 crew members on the aeroplane felt the effects of the undiagnosed illness.

A spokesperson for the airline confirmed that the aircraft returned to London due to a medical emergency.

The plane, which was carrying 188 passengers and crew members, had reached south west Iceland by the time it was diverted. Those travelling on flight AA109 were met by emergency services after landing back in Heathrow. All passengers were assessed by paramedics at the airport.

Howard Beckett, director of Unite Legal Services, said: “Unite Legal Services understands that this incident may be a result of a toxic fume event, where passengers breathe in contaminated air on an aircraft. If this is the case, it could very have serious implications for the individuals on board the American Airlines flight.

“The safety of the cabin crew and passengers needs to be the airline’s main priority now. This type of incident is highly concerning and we hope that a full independent inquiry will be launched to investigate the cause of the illnesses and to assess the potential dangers.”

Breathing in toxic cabin air on an aeroplane can cause a number of health issues, often referred to as aerotoxic syndrome. While most commonly linked to cabin crew staff, anyone who is exposed to toxic cabin air when travelling on an aeroplane, can be affected.

For more information on toxic cabin air, visit our dedicated toxic cabin air page.