Is it Rude to Bring Food on the Plane? Give Your Opinion in the Comments!

This post may contain affiliate links; please read our advertiser disclosure for more information.

Is it Rude to Bring Food on the Plane?

Is it Rude to Bring Food on the Plane?

I just returned from our family trip to the Keys and we had a blast.  Being a family of four we usually fly 2 and 2 in consecutive rows so that almost always means we leave our aisle seat to the seatmate chance wheel.  Is that a thing?  Nope I just made it up but you get the point :).

On the way home I lucked out with getting a empty seat next to me…clean living as PDX Deals Guy likes to say.  On the flight to Miami my seatmate sat down with a bag of food from a restaurant, and my stomach dropped.  I have to be honest I hate smelling other people’s food…it bothers me for some unknown reason.  If I am eating somewhere it is not a problem since it is expected, but on an airplane etc. I don’t want anything to do with it.

What is the Proper Etiquette?

Luckily for me it was just a grilled cheese and fries so nothing bad.  My wife mentioned that someone brought a garlic Italian dish that filled the whole cabin on her recent flight to the Grand Hyatt Baha Mar.

But this got me thinking, what is the proper plane dining etiquette?  There is no rule for this…airplanes allow you to bring on food no questions asked.  But should there be unspoken rules?  Is it a law vs morality type of debate?

I know where I fall on the spectrum but I also realize that people need to eat and that sometimes they didn’t have time to eat before boarding or in-between connections.  I personally make sure to finish my food before boarding and if I don’t have time then I will bring on a bag of chips or crackers etc. to get me through.

Should there at least be a unwritten rule that food with strong odors should be ditched at the door?  I love beef jerky as much as the next guy but it has a strong odor so I would never take it on a plane with me.


I am curious to read what others think on the topic.  Am I being unreasonable?  Should people leave food with strong odors behind?  Or do they have a right to bring on anything they want?

When you are in a metal tube with hundreds of other people breathing the same recycled air I don’t think it is too much to ask for someone to ditch the smelly food for a few hours.  But let me know what you think in the comments section.


Mark Ostermann
Mark Ostermann is a father, husband and miles/points fanatic. He left the corporate world after starting a family in order to be a stay at home dad. Mark is constantly looking at ways to save money and stay within budget while also taking awesome vacations with his family. When he isn't caring for his family or taking a weekend trip, Mark is working towards his goal of visiting every Major League Baseball ballpark.

More Like This


Responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.


  1. My 3 year old has a severe food allergy to dairy. As in if she ingests it she can die. So yeah, in this case I’d definitely have to say you should be able to bring food into a plane. Although in our case it’s due to a medical/health condition.

  2. I usually fly from BWI to SEA or SEA-BWI-5-6 hour flight. I eat snacks on the plane(dried Mango, almonds). Sometimes a salad that I had purchased from Costco that morning. I always ditch the salad dressing. I try not to eat anything spicy or smelly. think it is pretty rude for people to eat smelly food they take onto the plane.

  3. You know it used to be standard for airlines to serve hot meals on domestic flights that operated during meal times, right? Was it rude of the airlines to serve, or your neighbor to except offerings such as fish, beef stroganoff or ravioli, all of which have odors that fill the entire plane? Depending on where you sit you’re also likely to smell whatever is being served in first class. And most international flights still serve (sometimes fragrant) meals. How is it any different if someone buys their meal in the terminal instead?

    Now they sell soggy sandwiches and they don’t stock enough for everyone because not everyone buys them. I have been on a six hour flight to Hawaii when they’ve run out of everything and I had to make do with a pack of pretzels. So yes, I buy food in the terminal before flights since airlines now expect us to provide our own meals whether purchased from them or elsewhere. And I eat it on the plane because it gives me something to do and I may not be hungry yet. They provide trays to do just that, which makes a lot more sense than trying to use a knife and fork while balancing a flimsy takeaway box on your lap while any sauces or grease seep through the cardboard and on to your pants (and then you smell anyway). I don’t order pungent foods, but all hot meals have an odor of some type.

    My most recent trip was ANC–PDX–LAX, covering both lunch and dinner time. I had planned to eat at PDX but thanks to headwinds, our connection was reduced to 40 minutes so I grabbed some food to go and ran to our gate where they were finishing up boarding. Good thing, because due to some choppy air the flight attendants had to sit for the entire flight. That would’ve been a very long day with only the drink and biscuit served on our first leg.

  4. My home-packed fresh plant food is typically timid on smells. But the fried dead bodies on the most plates served by the airline is fairly nasty smelling. So I’m not sure why the question is turned to the external sources of smells while the internal are often offensive to quiet a few passengers (with no way out of the situation). Go figure…

  5. …. and then there’s the whole food allergy issue. I’ve been on Southwest flights where they limited their already limited snacks — as in “we’re not serving peanuts today as we understand that somebody on board is allergic to peanuts.” (not to make light of the problem here — my mother generally avoids flying due to allergies to perfumes….)

    Alas, as much as I hear you Mark re. the rank unpleasantness potential of smells from alien dishes literally in your face, the airlines brought this on themselves…. Gone are the days when Piedmont Airlines ran the flights like Mayberry…. I make it a habit to always at least have snacks with me. (though I was also raised in a different era to be willing to share….. rather than be a “pig” in front of a famished close neighbor )

  6. Bringing food onboard gives one something to look forward to, can make a flight seem to go by faster, and enjoying a meal is a great use of the time onboard I think. Miss the days when complimentary meals were served in domestic economy.

  7. Well I have to say that I’ve probably been guilty of bringing pungent food onboard a few times. Things like Wendy’s Chili and their Spicy Chicken sandwich. I’ve also brought on an Asian Chicken Salad which can have some odor from the dressing.

    Unfortunately as has been pointed out you have to eat and if you have a short connection or even a direct long flight the airline for sale meal that you might want can is probably already gone by the time they get to your row.

    I’ve ended up starving with a airline bag of pretzels or peanuts on a cross country flight too many times as my only meal. So I buy something and bring it onboard.

    Of course my preference is to have enough time to hit the SkyClub or whatever other lounge and eat something there prior to the flight. But again this is not something that everyone can do or has access to.

  8. Nothing wrong in eating your own food in the plane. But should mindful of others. Cold cuts, grilled cheese, chips, fruit, cookie, something that doesn’t smell crazy etc etc are perfectly allowed. I never rely on airplane food when traveling domestically especially short haul. Be mindful of your travel buddies and all is well.

  9. I agree with the comments of using discretion and steering clear of odiferous foods ….especially fish. Unfortunately, on our flight out to Hawaii the only 2 choices for lunch was salmon or a vegetarian selection. Shame on the airline for not being conscientious about smells that waif not only throughout 1st Class, but the entire plane. . (P.S. of course my sweet husband chose the fish!)

  10. It was only rude on my last flight because my 3 hour connection at O’Hare got reduced to 30 minutes due to mechanical issues on the inbound, and I had no time to eat.

    It then took the FAs a whopping 3.5 hours to finally get to our section with the food cart on my ORD-SFO flight, so, yeah, it was torture when the guy next to me broke out a sandwich.

    • Ha – that would be tough. 3.5 hours yikes. I thought it was bad when it took them 1.5 hours to get out on our way to Vegas!

  11. It’s the airlines fault that they now charge for pretty much everything and the food they sell is mostly unappetizing with tiny portions. You seldom see this on international flights where they feed you plenty even in economy. I do know that the Asian airlines banned Durian fruit due to its pungent smell.

  12. When I took a flight to India, the Indian family had lots of nice strong smelling curry meals, I believe chicken tikka masala chicken curry etc, they were eating and enjoying while and my mouth kept watering like crazy . Live Indian and Pakistani spicy meals

  13. I agree with the earlier comment that odors are persistent and are not easily blocked out like noise. I have certainly had my share of tight connections & had to bring lunch (or dinner) on the plane with me, but to be considerate of others, I buy something that doesn’t smell and doesn’t make a lot of noise when I eat. I also try to eat my meal during the boarding process so that unexpected turbulence in-flight doesn’t throw my chicken sandwich halfway across the plane..

    • Ha – great tip on the turbulence. My buddy had a full cup of coffee spilled on him because of that….and then had to go to work with a huge stain. Not a happy camper!

  14. It is rude Airlines sells expensive (inedible ruined & unhealthy ) foods 5 time costs , no wonder they want to bring their foods for their budgets

  15. It is definitively not rude as long as you’re considerate and eat properly and clean after yourself. Also, please dont buy smelly foods and clean yourself on the arm rest.

  16. As soon as airlines stopped providing food (read: started selling food) that opened the door for people to bring it on board. In the 90’s and before I would have never thought to bring food. Now I do so with some frequency. I tend not to eat things that are very pungent but if someone is offended by my sandwich I don’t care – at all. Travel nowadays is something you put up with as opposed to the fun experience it used to be.

    • I can agree with you there…the airlines made it more of a cut throat bottom line business vs the experience it used to be years ago.

    • I think most parents don’t want to go to jail for leaving them behind :). But I do think some could do a better job trying to pacify their children. Most do a good job imo and sometimes you do the best you can and still fail. The seat I had today had crayon all over the tray and wall…that would be a fail in my book!

    • I think the solution is that you save money and book the entire flight to yourself. I guess you don’t know you were a baby and cried a lot. You think the parents enjoy when their baby or kids cry?

      • I think most parents just ignore them as they “tune them out” caring absolutely nothing about anyone else around them. Sad but true in this day and age. Seen it many many times. Not just on planes, but there it’s far worse due to the tight cabin space.

  17. Many airlines sell food on longer flights … is that rude? I do agree that an odor bomb should be avoided; same thinking as I’d use at my office.

    • They do – but most of that food is odor neutral etc. Sandwiches and the like. My point was more that food with strong odors should be left behind. That is my opinion at least. And don’t eat like a wild animal too lol 🙂

  18. Best in-flight meal: sushi/sashimi
    Why? It doesn’t smell (if it does smell, then immediately toss it! Food poisoning isn’t fun), and it’s delicious. Love to pick up assorted sushi/sashimi from a spot in NYC – jump in a Uber, head to JFK and then have a great meal that nobody can smell about 20 minutes after takeoff. It makes the 5 hour + flight a lot more enjoyable.

  19. If an odor is so strong that it interferes with the operation of the plane, yes. I was on a flight where the pilot almost kicked a woman off for spraying her “essential” oils. After the flight crew admonished her, I hear her mumbling about doing us a favor by “killing germs”

    • Ha my wife is into Essential Oils but she would never spray it for unwilling people to smell. Crazy story!

  20. Its Rude, but I do it, if traveled all day had a short connection and could only eat on board, I don’t have a choice.

  21. Sounds and sight can be self-controlled because we can close our eyes and put on some music to get ourselves out of situations. But odor is something only the person owning the source can control. So – yes, we should use our discretion and not bring food on the plane that can bother someone (even if someone is munching along a big bag of chips the whole way can be bothering to others)

  22. People need to eat. That smell will fade.

    It’s rude to take a cologne or perfume bath before traveling. Or no bath at all.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here


  • MtM recommended tool to track & organize credit cards
  • Best card offers personalized for you
  • Track bonus deadlines, fee dates & 5/24 status
  • Full Travel Freely overview

Free Sign-Up

  • MtM recommended tool to track & organize credit cards
  • Best card offers personalized for you
  • Track bonus deadlines, fee dates & 5/24 status
  • Full Travel Freely overview

Free Sign-Up

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join thousands of MtM readers who are subscribed to receive a once daily email with all of our posts. Never miss out!

You have Successfully Subscribed!