Why do we fart so much on planes?

As the old adage goes, he who smelt it, dealt it. The problem is that on most of the planes, there are dozens of people dealing it at the same time. Turns out there’s a real reason for it, and it’s not just the crummy airplane food.

Fettuccine with red sauce, kale, and shaved parmesan cheese

I’m sitting in a first class cabin on Alaska Airlines writing this right now and there’s a very common smell wafting around the cabin. You all know what it is. It’s poo gas! Someone is farting like a fiend on this flight.

The flight attendant has already come down the aisle and sprayed an air freshener (it’s that bad) but the subtle hints aren’t working because the mystery man or woman is still going at it. Calgon, take my away!

Science!

HAFE is an acronym that stands for High Altitude Flatus Expulsion and is more common that you might think. It’s not terribly difficult to imagine either. If you think of an airplane cabin, the pressue is different than that on the ground. Cabins are pressurized to somewhere between 6,000-8,000 feet and as the gas in your gut expands it needs to go somewhere.

Hence… poof.

You pass gas sometimes more than a dozen times when you’re on the ground, so it would make sense that you would do it just as much on a plane. Long haul flights are the worst. Imagine being stuck for 16 hours in a metal tube, being fed three substandard meals, sharing a crowded lavatory, and you can understand while you might let one rip in the main cabin.

Food is literally fermenting in your esophagus, stomach, and intestins, and during the process it’s creating gases.

To fart, or not to fart?

So, the question is… should you let it go or hold it in? I think the answer is obvious, albeit stinky. You’ve gotta let it go. Holding it in, much like holding in a sneeze, can lead to all sorts of problems. If you can make it to the restroom with any ease, then please by all means do… for your sake and for the rest of us.

If you’re the unfortunate recipient of a passengers’ gas attacks, there’s not much else you can do. Turn on your air vent, cover up with a blanket, and ride it out.

What if YOU’RE the stinky one?

If you know that you’re prone to gas and other bloating related problems, there are a few things that you can do to get you through.

  1. Take a light laxative 2-3 days before you fly. This will help to clean things out, but of course try and not take it the day of if you don’t want some bubble gut on the plane.
  2. Make sure you exercise or at least keep moving before your trip. Moving helps things… move… 
  3. Avoid foods that are processed and high in salt. In other words, avoid airplane food. If you can eat something healthy on the ground first, do that.
  4. Avoid carbonated beverages and high alcohol foods. 
  5. Water, water, water
  6. Don’t avoid the bathroom. If you’ve got to go, GO. Get up and use that lav for what it’s supposed to be used for.

Have you been on a flight that’s been particularly stinky? What have you done to get through it?

Author: Jon Nickel-D'Andrea

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5 Comments

    • Haha 🙂 Sometimes we’re here to bring the ‘breaking’ news…

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  1. I am absolutely dying here, laughing out loud reading this. It happens all the time when I sit in front on Delta flights……there is always one fart bag somewhere, usually very close to me, cutting them like there’s no tomorrow. I once saw a flight attendant walk right up to a passenger and spray him. She claimed to have seen him trying to do a one cheek sneak! Hope y’all had a great time while you were down here!

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    • Cheek sneak. That sounds like an Atlanta flight attendant 🙂

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