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Jan 30, 2006 09:49 PM

Food and Odor on an Airplane - Etiquette

  • b

So with the food on planes going from bad to nonexistent, I've started bringing my meals along, usually something bought at the airport. I'm making a trip to NY in the near future, and had been contemplating a pastrami sandwich on the flight back. My question is how odorous can food be to bring on an airplane without being rude. Saltines would be a 1, Durian a 10, and Pastrami someting like a 5.

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  1. I bring banh mi on most flights, brought a container of dim sum home from Hong Kong...My feeling is, if you have to smell them microwaving that Chef Boyardee macaroni and whatever, NOTHING you cn bring is that bad...


    1 Reply
    1. re: galleygirl

      This seems like another common sense issue. I hardly think you are "sinking" to the depths of anti-social behavior if you bring a sandwich on the plane. Others can remember to bing their own stuff next time. I bring pizza home with me occasionally and everyone ohhs and ahhs - of course I don't eat it on the way. Does anyone HATE the smell of pizza? I understand about overwhelming scents in small places, but the plane does have a ventilation system.

      However, I did bring some kim chee one time and that was a bit embarassing even though I wasn't eating that either. I wouldn't do that again.

      There is a big difference between pastrami and, say, stinky tofu.

    2. I try to keep it at a 3 or below. Think how you'd feel if someone next to you had something that smelled divine and you couldn't have any.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Fida
        janet of reno

        At least the divine food smells would be better than smelling the person (who uhhh......maybe ate too many beans.....) sitting next to me on my flight from hell Sunday!! But seriously, I would be conservative......

        1. re: janet of reno

          Good point. I once brought on a box of Taiwanese cold noodles (liang mien). It's a divine cold food: egg noodles, bean sprouts, shredded cucumbers and carrots, poached chicken chicken pieces, crushed peanuts, and spicy secret sauce (secret to me, at least).

          I forgot how much chopped garlic is in every Taiwanese dish. I got a "Oh my gosh, WHAT are you eating?"

          I was about to put the box away in horror when the woman who had made the exclamation explained herself. "No no, please keep eating! Someone should! I love garlic." Everyone looked at my noodles lustfully. Oops! Perhaps I was travelling with very polite Chowhounds.

          1. re: janet of reno

            I'm with those who say if you're debating, don't. There is very little to be gained by you-- as opposed to eating that sandwich in greater comfort before or after you fly-- and you could make the person next to you truly miserable.

            Besides, are you going to want to finish that sandwich once your neighbor starts barfing into a bag?

        2. We chatted with a flight attendant recently who said that odorous food on flights is becoming a big problem -- one that they can't really do anything about. You probably shouldn't jump and sing, "I have a pastrami sandwich and you don't" but I think you'd be fine at a smell level 5 or 6. If nothing else, it should provide education to the drooling people near you so that on their next flights they, too, will bring what they want.

          On the other hand, I always want to strangle the ladies who spritz on their perfume (it's never the subtle perfume wearers) in the middle of the flight. That's a smell that's never welcome to anyone but the wearer.

          We have a small plane and my husband has flown us to Costa Rica, Toronto, Cancun, etc. As a good co-pilot I bring the food. I use one of those little food carriers with the cold ice pack to bring pre-cut brie, prosciutto, tomato and basil for a killer sandwich, or I'll bring tequenos and empanadas of long leaves of romaine that I'll roll cheese inside. Coconut water is our favorite drink b/c it's very thirst quenching in small amounts -- small planes don't have bathrooms. I'm very spoiled by the food on these trips; for some reason the airport-bought bagel and brick hard cream cheese w/ onboard drink and peanuts just never measures up!

          1. Personally, I am deeply irritated by smelly foods on planes. It seems like nearly ever flight I am on lately someone has a smelly veggie sub or pizza. And at no point can I recall smelly food on an airplane making me hungry or jealous, rather in the stale air of the airplane it's just unappealing and overpowering (and that's at best). I bring only very low odor snacks with me on a plane, out of respect for the other people crammed into the tight space with me. Any cravings I may have for richer, heavier foods can certainly wait the few hours until I reach my destination. This is just my feelings on the issue.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Liz CT

              I pretty much feel the same way: as you say, perhaps it is the atmosphere, or perhaps it is just the ambiance, or maybe it is just bad luck, but I've never smelled anything delicious on a plane *ever* Besides, I have difficulty eating anything requiring utensils because I *always* seem to be behind the person who insists on reclining their seat the whole way. (And then there was the time that someone in front of hubby kept 'poufing' her long hair and stretching behind her hair, resulting in both hands and hair blocking hubby's mini-tv screen and even touching hubby's tray, more than once, even after he asked her to stop.) and Then there is the issue of everyone having way to much to carry on the plane...and then....

              I could go on and on....In other words, it is hard enough to be cramped in too little space for too long without making it I'd say be the neighbor you'd want them to be, show some pity on your fellow/sister travelers, and don't bring something above a three...I'd say bring that delicious four and above meal and eat it in a corder of the boarding area, before boarding. On a really long flight, I'd bring something non-obtrusive and easy to eat on the plane: for me, roast beef or grilled chicken sandwiches, with raisins, nuts, apple slices, come to mind....

              Bottom line: if you have to ask, it is because you aren't sure. and if you aren't sure, part of you wonders if you wouldn't want to be treated that way. Listen to that part of you. (just my opinion, of course).

            2. I don't eat on flights.

              I have enough stuff to worry about with my carry on (22 inch pullman and leather back pack with my handbag inside my backpack) that I don't have time to dick around with schlepping a meal on board.

              Even with cross country flights I can grab something to eat before hand.

              The most I'll have is a protein bar.

              1 Reply
              1. re: BlueHerons

                Agreed. I try not to go anywhere that doesn't have good food. On the way there I'm saving up stomach room, and on the way home I'm starting my calorie-deficit penance. Even business trips where the food might not be too hot, you still are likely to overeat when traveling, so I see that plane ride as an oasis from temptation.

                A power bar in the purse would stave off cannabalism in the event of some kind of 8-hours-on-the-tarmac nightmare.