Why We Pass So Much Gas on Planes — and What To Do About It

A year ago flatulence from goats caused a Singapore Airlines aircraft to make an emergency landing. (Hot cows caused a similar issue for a 747 near Heathrow.)

And a passenger’s gastrointestinal issues caused a British Airways flight to turn around and go back to London.

Usually things don’t reach the point where an aircraft has to declare an emergency, but passing gas on a plane is something that happens on most every flight, every day, because changes in air pressure cause the body to produce more gas.

  • An average person does this 10 times a day anyway. Now multiply that out across a full Airbus A380 on a long haul flight and that’s without factoring in changes in altitude.
  • The cause of the odor is sulfur
  • The problem inflight is worse in cabins with leather seats (which traditionally meant first class). Most fabric seat covers are more absorbant.

Beans may be good for your heart, but you shouldn’t eat them before flying or on a plane. Avoid fried foods, cabbage, broccoli and brussel sprouts.

At Washington National airport, don’t do this:

Consider taking gas-x or beano if you’re especially prone to the issue. You can excuse yourself to the lavatory, but there’s often a wait especially in economy — this is to make your fellow passengers feel less awkward about the situation.

The flipside though is if your seat mate passes gas, try to ignore it, it’s too easy for tensions to escalate in a plane as it is and there’s really nowhere to go to extricate yourself from an uncomfortable situation.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I have sometimes sat in front of a passenger who is flatulent, and, while gagging with the ghastly smell, I am also horribly fearful that the other passengers think the smell emanated from me.

  2. How do we curb the gasses passed by bloggers on this site that leave stinky articles like this one?

  3. The breakfast buffet in most lounges includes baked beans of one sort or another. Maybe the catering managers should rethink this!

  4. Once on Cathay Pacific in F, every time a exploded I smelt a nice lavender scent. Someone was covering for me

  5. Whoever smelt it, delt it ! The BA flight turned back for a fart attack, wow. Wonder if the crew asked if there were any medical personnel onboard to offer care to the windy passenger(s)?

  6. Flight attendants do what’s called “crop dusting.” This is when the trolley going up & down the aisle.
    It is the perfect place to drop a few without being pinned for it!

  7. It’s funny that airlines would actually serve bean on board as part of their vegetarian special meal offering. That is the only vegetarian choice available and it’s an Indian spice based dish. They must know what beans do to people. Why serve it?

  8. @Barbara: I don’t understand your problem with smelling other people’s farts. I mean, think of it this way: It’s just air blowing across their poop!!

    Feel better?

  9. Hi Gary, I’m an aerospace medicine physician and thoroughly enjoy your blog. With regards to this post, Gas-X (simethicone) is a surfactant/anti-foaming agent that decreases bloating by causing intestinal gas to be expelled more quickly. Unfortunately, if you took this while on an aircraft, it would initially cause more flatulence because of its mechanism of action.

  10. I once flew in F on Japan airlines from NRT to ORD. I had terrible gas and could not hold it in. One respectable Japanese fellow appeared to realize it was me and kept shooting me dirty looks. Felt terrible, but I did not have to go…..

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