Given the hefty price tag and prestige, it's the last place you would expect to find bedbugs.

But a man has complained of being bitten by the insects in British Airways business class.

Passenger Mike Gregory, 35, said he was covered in dozens of itchy bites after taking a £4,000 (NZD $7,567) flight from London to Cape Town to spend the New Year with his family, reports Daily Mail.

His ordeal follows a similar case where a Canadian family was left covered in bedbug bites after flying BA in September.

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It is another embarrassment for the flagship carrier, which is fighting to restore its reputation after being accused of poor customer service and cutting perks.

BA was also criticised over its response to an IT meltdown last May which resulted in hundreds of flights being cancelled and tens of thousands of passengers around the world being stranded.

Mr Gregory's itching started on New Year's Eve, a few hours after he arrived in Cape Town, where his wife and two small children live.

The BA Gold Card holder had left London at 9.30pm the previous day and settled down to sleep but woke in the morning to find spots of blood on his pillow.

"I had an incredibly itchy waist, torso and hands," he said. "I realised I had been bitten 120 to 150 times."

The businessman did some online research and realised this had all the hallmarks of bedbugs. The insects administer an anaesthetic substance which means victims usually only notice the next morning when red, itchy areas appear.

The businessman did some online research and realised this had all the hallmarks of bedbugs. Photo / 123RF
The businessman did some online research and realised this had all the hallmarks of bedbugs. Photo / 123RF

There are often spots of blood on sheets from bugs crushed when the person rolls over. Mr Gregory's research also uncovered the incident involving the Canadian family flying from Vancouver to London. They spotted bedbugs on the seat in front and another crawling out from behind a TV monitor but claimed flight attendants said nothing could be done.

After the nine-hour flight, the married couple and their seven-year-old daughter were left covered in bites.

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Mr Gregory saw a doctor who confirmed he had been bitten by bedbugs and advised him to stay out of the sun to prevent scarring.

"I was shocked and obviously appalled by it," he said. "I was amazed it was even possible to have bedbugs on a flight. It has ruined my family holiday."

The businessman, who spends up to £30,000 (NZD $56,000) flying around 30,000 miles (48,000 km) a year with BA and divides his time between Kent and Cape Town, complained immediately.

After numerous phone calls, he was informed yesterday that the plane had been fumigated but only several days after he raised the alarm.

Bedbugs tend to hide after feeding to digest their meal of human blood and lay eggs. Mr Gregory added: "This is not acceptable. It means it is quite likely that other passengers were bitten."

A BA spokesman said the plane was investigated immediately and has now been 'fully treated' with no further reports of problems.

He added: "We have been in touch with Mr Gregory to apologise. British Airways operates more than 280,000 flights on 280 routes every year and reports of bedbugs are extremely rare.

"As soon as we are made aware, we take steps to investigate, cordon off and treat the seat as necessary."