Over my many years as a frequent flier, I have come across many different people, attitudes, and circumstances. However, I encountered one of the most strange incidents last month on my United flight from Los Angeles to Tokyo.The trouble on the eleven-hour-long flight began with a broken television screen that hit my left leg, not once but twice.As any five-year-old might tell you, when you injure yourself, you should immediately apply some ice to the injury to minimize any swelling that should ensue especially if you are a sufferer of lymphedema like myself.
I buzzed the flight attendant to ask for an ice pack which is usually a basic component in first aid kits.
The flight attendant took quite a bit of time arriving, only to notify me that there were no instant ice packs onboard (according to her, United‘s first aid kits don’t contain instant ice packs .)
From there, the story only got worse.
I asked for a plastic bag (like a Ziploc ) with some ice cubes to use.
And that’s when she notified me she couldn’t do that either since there were no plastic bags onboard to fill and to treat my injury!
I went through the next couple of hours attempting to “ice” my leg with a series of leaky barf bags that burst every several minutes.Needless to mention swelling did ensue and my injury did end up affecting my vacation.
So why is this important?
This post is not about my particular injury, the defunct equipment, or even the incredibly rude flight service.
It is about a much more important issue that pertains to most travelers; the absence of standard first aid items that one assumes are present in an airline kit only to discover they are absent when they are needed.
As both my husband and I have worked extensively in the medical field, we did call the airline and verify that the information the flight attendant gave us was indeed correct. And sure enough, it was!
Moreover, the ratio of other important items per passenger was also quite shocking; the first kit was scarce on things like tourniquets, syringes and pain killers.
Back to the ice packs. One might wonder why packs would even be necessary on a plane?
Well, the chances of suffering minor to moderate dry blows are increased on planes.
Between passengers trying to stuff their luggage in overhead bins and under their seats (flight attendants are not supposed to help because of insurance and liability reasons), turbulence, and faulty equipment, a passenger’s chances of suffering some injury can exponentially increase.
So, the logical question would be why United’s kits don’t contain the necessary instant ice packs.
Is it due to budget cuts?
Or that most airlines do not consider it is a medical necessity?
Whatever the reason behind it, I’d like to grab this opportunity and call upon airline officials to review and revise the current company policy.
Until that happens, I will be packing an instant ice pack in my already overfilled carry on to ensure a similar incident does not recur.