Bed Bugs Have Found a New Home: Airplanes. Here's How to Spot Them

iStock
iStock

Few people expect intercontinental air travel to be terribly comfortable, but for the most part, we do expect it to be clean. So it's particularly horrifying to hear that in addition to worrying about things like making it through security, fighting fellow passengers for overhead bin space, and praying you aren't sitting in front of someone who will kick the back of your seat for the whole flight, you also have to worry about insect infestation when you fly. According to Thrillist and Fox5NY, Air India has had multiple reports of bed bugs in its business-class seats. It's not the first airline to receive bed bug complaints, either, so if you travel frequently, you should probably learn how to spot these pests.

On July 17 and July 19, two separate Air India passengers tweeted about seeing—and being bitten by—bed bugs on flights from the New York City area to India. And it wasn't in economy—one of the passengers said he paid $10,000 for business-class tickets for his wife and three children. After 17 hours in the air with bed bugs as seat mates, the passengers disembarked bloody and covered in bites. The Times of India reported that the airline had received reports of bed bugs on another flight on a different aircraft, but "appears to have ignored them."

But you can't just swear off Air India and assume you'll be safe from bugs on your next flight with another carrier. In 2017, a passenger flying from Canada to the UK on British Airways said that she and her daughter were bitten during their flight, too. In 2010 and 2011, British Airways and United Airlines both had bed bug infestations that left passengers riddled with bite marks. Travelers can easily carry bed bugs from their hotel onto a plane and then into their homes, and short of delaying every flight while the crew inspects and treats every seat, there's not much airlines can do to stop it.

The best you can do is be vigilant, and if you do see bed bugs (first, make sure you know what one looks like) tell a crew member immediately. To minimize your own exposure, cover yourself up—bed bugs can't bite through your clothes—and bring your own pillow and blanket. To really ensure you and your clothes stay bug-free, bring your own protective seat cover to put over your plane seat. You’ll look pretty wacky to your fellow passengers, but you'll have an extra layer of protection.

And before you attack your airline for exposing you to an infestation, consider your own role. Since bed bug bites might not become apparent until a day or two after you're bitten, it's possible that you might not notice them if you've only been at your hotel a short time. If bugs are biting you in your airplane seat, it's very possible that you're actually the one who brought them on the plane in the first place. That's why one expert, Joe Ballenger of Ask an Entomologist, told Lifehacker that he recommends alerting both your airline and all the hotels you stayed in if you find bed bugs after your trip.

[h/t Thrillist]

What Do the Numbers and Letters on a Boarding Pass Mean?

iStock.com/Laurence Dutton
iStock.com/Laurence Dutton

Picture this: You're about to embark on a vacation or business trip, and you have to fly to reach your destination. You get to the airport, make it through the security checkpoint, and breathe a sigh of relief. What do you do next? After putting your shoes back on, you'll probably look at your boarding pass to double-check your gate number and boarding time. You might scan the information screen for your flight number to see if your plane will arrive on schedule, and at some point before boarding, you'll also probably check your zone and seat numbers.

Aside from these key nuggets of information, the other letters and numbers on your boarding pass might seem like gobbledygook. If you find this layout confusing, you're not the only one. Designer and creative director Tyler Thompson once commented that it was almost as if "someone put on a blindfold, drank a fifth of whiskey, spun around 100 times, got kicked in the face by a mule … and then just started puking numbers and letters onto the boarding pass at random."

Of course, these seemingly secret codes aren't exactly secret, and they aren't random either. So let's break it down, starting with the six-character code you'll see somewhere on your boarding pass. This is your Passenger Name Reference (or PNR for short). On some boarding passes—like the one shown below—it may be referred to as a record locator or reservation code.

A boarding pass
Piergiuliano Chesi, Wikimedia Commons // Public domain

These alphanumeric codes are randomly generated, but they're also unique to your personal travel itinerary. They give airlines access to key information about your contact information and reservation—even your meal preferences. This is why it's ill-advised to post a photo of your boarding pass to social media while waiting at your airport gate. A hacker could theoretically use that PNR to access your account, and from there they could claim your frequent flier miles, change your flight details, or cancel your trip altogether.

You might also see a random standalone letter on your boarding pass. This references your booking class. "A" and "F," for instance, are typically used for first-class seats. The letter "Y" generally stands for economy class, while "Q" is an economy ticket purchased at a discounted rate. If you see a "B" you might be in luck—it means you could be eligible for a seat upgrade.

There might be other letters, too. "S/O," which is short for stopover, means you have a layover that lasts longer than four hours in the U.S. or more than 24 hours in another country. Likewise, "STPC" means "stopover paid by carrier," so you'll likely be put up in a hotel free of charge. Score!

One code you probably don’t want to see is "SSSS," which means your chances of getting stopped by TSA agents for a "Secondary Security Screening Selection" are high. For whatever reason, you've been identified as a higher security risk. This could be because you've booked last-minute or international one-way flights, or perhaps you've traveled to a "high-risk country." It could also be completely random.

Still confused? For a visual of what that all these codes look like on a boarding pass, check out this helpful infographic published by Lifehacker.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, send it to bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

Taco Bell is Opening a Taco-Themed Hotel in Palm Springs This Summer

Taco Bell Corp.
Taco Bell Corp.

For some, having a Taco Bell and its cheese-filled menu within driving distance is enough. For others, only a Taco Bell destination vacation will do. This August, the popular fast food chain is going to convert an existing Palm Springs, California, hotel into a burrito-filled Taco Bell getaway for a limited time.

The Bell Hotel will have all the usual amenities—rooms, food, gifts, and a salon—operating with a taco-themed cosmetic facelift. The nail salon, for example, will feature Taco Bell-inspired nail art. (Though we're not entirely sure what that consists of—possibly nails that resemble hot sauce packets.) The gift shop will feature Taco Bell apparel. Guests can also enjoy the standard variety of Taco Bell menu items. According to Thrillist, some new additions to their line-up are expected to be unveiled.

The as-yet-undisclosed hotel in Palm Springs will be operating as a Taco Bell partner for five nights total. As with pop-up stores and other publicity campaigns, the expectation is that guests will share their bizarre Taco Bell resort experience on social media and create some buzz around the brand. Taco Bell is no stranger to audacious marketing, as in the case of their Taco Bell Cantina in Las Vegas, which books weddings. Recently, the company also began making home deliveries via GrubHub.

The Bell Hotel website is now accepting sign-ups so fans can be notified when reservations open. The facility is expected to open August 9.

[h/t CNBC]

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