Poll: Does it annoy you when people bring strong smelling food on flights?

This past summer I was flying home from Boston, sitting on the aisle and working intently when I noticed something that smelled….off. I Boston lobster rollglanced at the seats around me and found the culprit a few rows back across the aisle: someone’s lunch. To this day I have no idea what that person was eating that was so noxious but eventually the only way I kept from being sick was to breathe through my pashmina (another thing to add to the long list of reasons why pashminas are awesome).

Now, I have always been very sensitive to scents. I can’t tolerate a vast number of perfumes and colognes, and many herbal scents give me an immediate migraine (i.e. lavender). So I recognize that I may be in the minority finding certain food smells offensive. But since that day I’ve wondered if other people are bothered by them too.

Two recent stories make me think that I’m not. The first is (my beloved) Sir Patrick Stewart reenacting the top most annoying airline passengers on Jimmy Kimmel Live. (If you haven’t watched it yet, please do—it’s hilarious!!) One of the annoying passengers mentioned was the one bringing smelly food onto a plane, and when I saw that I thought, Thank goodness it’s not just me! Then over the weekend Fox News reported on a survey that said that almost 50% of people think it’s rude for people to bring food with strong odors (tuna, onions, etc) onto a flight. 12% of respondents actually think airlines should ban people from bringing such food onboard!

I’m under no illusions about the airline industry—if they won’t enforce their carryon policy there is no way they will stop people from bringing certain types of food on board. It also true that just like people continue to bring aboard overstuffed suitcases, they will also continue to bring smelly food. Etiquette wise, I’m not sure there is any way to politely ask someone to not eat (although if any readers have suggestions I’m all ears!). The best solution is to have something like a pashmina to breathe through.

Readers, what do you think?

Does it annoy you when people bring strong smelling food on flights?

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  1. I’m with you in the can’t stand most scents camp. Don’t like the smelly food, but at least it’s usually not as bad as someone bathed in perfume/cologne. Had a bad flight yesterday with someone just ahead of me wearing a scent that meant I could barely breathe.

  2. Agreed with Cheryl, at least most people eat their food and the scent goes away.

    That being said, when I as in college, getting wings at Millers in MDW meant that the open seat on Southwest was usually the one next to me! But these days I am a more frequent, savvy, and respectful traveler.

  3. I try not to let it bother me since we’ve all been there with hunger pains and a short connection.

    It only bothers me when passengers sprawl out and make a mess out of their greasy meal and don’t consider the small amount of personal space.

    Personally, I try to bring non-greasy, low-odor food on a flight.

  4. To me, it varies by the circumstances. Is it a long flight but without a meal service, and they were running late in their connection? The I won’t begrudge them for grabbing something quick to eat on the plane, even if it is smelly.

  5. Certain strong smelling foods, cigarette smell, cigarette smoke and perfume or cologne give me a instant migraine with nausea and vomiting. It

  6. Only bothers me if there no food on the plane and I am sitting there hungry. Sometimes you have no choice but to pick something up and speed through the airport between connections.

  7. I think the real problem with “smelly” food for most people is that they aren’t getting any (food that is). The foods they complain about are eaten around them all the time in restaurants, homes and offices. Btw food is supposed to smell.

  8. Not only does noxious food bother me, but strong perfume or mens cologne, has made me so sick, I actually threw up. I have seen more men with overdone cologne, especially in their 20’s. They just seem to be ignorant of the fact that women don’t want to be bathed in this smell. I also had a guy with smelly feet take his tennis shoes off, and the Flight attendant ask him to put them back on. I wrote her a nice compliment letter to their head office.

  9. How about when the airline serves stinking food! On a Delta flight from Amsterdam to Atlanta they served salami baquettes. When my seatmates tore the plastic off those sandwiches, the stench almost made me vomit. The after effects were not pleasant either.

  10. Anything with fish or fishy sauce should be banned from the plane. And fried takeout. Chips are the worst. However the offense caused by these pales compared to perfumes and colognes (I’m looking at you CK One/Be or whatever!).

    Whatever happened to BATHING and just showing up clean to the plane? Not dousing yourself in something that a LOT of people find noxious and unneccessary?

    And while I’m on the subject, some men and older people seem to think they won’t smell if they bathe but never ever wash their clothes. So what you get is a vomitous combination of stale sweat (sometimes overwhelming), body oils and testosterone. This is the worst of the lot and not just on the plane. We have cleaners at work who come in reeking of weeks-old sweat. If they think it’s okay to smell like that, I’ve no hope at all for their cleaning standards.

  11. I often bring clementines with me when I’m flying, but I feel guilty actually eating them on the plane because of the smell. It’s not “bad” like fish, but still strong – how do people feel about citrus odors?

  12. No problem with citrus. It’s strong, but at least it’s refreshing. And every time you wave your hands around you get another whiff. Lovely.

  13. Perfumes are the most upsetting. They are made with oils to make the scent last longer. Sitting next to someone doused in cologne / perfume is as much an invasion of my personal space as someone physically leaning over into my seat. (Sat next to a woman who hadn’t bathed earlier this week. If I worked with her full time I’d have a one a one conversation but for a 4 hour flight I just endured.)

  14. You are all very lucky nobody tries to bring Durian aboard US flights. It is banned on planes in its native places, I believe. And yes, food is supposed to smell. It is very personal. Frankly, in my opinion, a lot of food neither tastes nor smells of anything much and is not terribly appetizing.

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