The Airline Fart Factor: Why Planes Smell Like Farts

Flying is certainly convenient but there are some complaints that people have when they take a flight. One of those has to do with the smell, and it isn’t always pleasant.

There is a combination of different issues that take place on an aircraft that can leave it smelling like farts. This includes 100+ people sweating and breathing the same air as well as the food and even the proximity to the restroom.

Keep in mind that just because an airline smells like somebody farted does not necessarily mean that you are breathing in something that was just in somebody else’s colon.

More than likely, it is a combination of different smells that create this cocktail.

Onboard my Virgin Atlantic Flight

This may leave you wondering, is it safe to be on a plane, considering the fact that you are breathing the same air over and over again? Is that actually how it works?

In this article, we’re going to take a closer look at aircraft air circulation and what happens behind the scenes. It will teach you the truth about fart filtering air on airlines, whether you get clean air into the plane and how worried you have to be when it comes to germs.

How Clean Is The Air On Planes?

When you speak to somebody about flying, they’re probably going to say how they always have a problem with the air quality. They may even give you warnings, but are those warnings substantiated?

The air inside of an airplane is actually some of the cleanest that you will breathe in your life. Unless you work in an actual clean room, then you can take advantage of the air quality while you have the opportunity.

I’ll be the first one to admit that I don’t necessarily appreciate breathing air on an airplane. In fact, I was one of the few people that were happy when they had the mandatory mask requirements put in place.

In part, this was out of ignorance because I really didn’t understand how the air was filtered and cleaned on the aircraft. Once I learned the truth about the matter, I felt a little more comfortable.

First of all, most commercial aircraft have the best HEPA filtering system that you will ever have the pleasure of experiencing. As the air is pulled out of the cabin, is run through the HEPA filter and cleansed.

Just how clean does the HEPA filter get the air? As the air passes through, 99.97% of all particles that are 0.3 µm or larger are filtered out. Considering the fact that something has to be 25 µm in size to be visible, that is really small.

In addition, we tend to trust the N95 masks that we wear due to the coronavirus. Those masks only filter out 95%, so you’re getting cleaner air through the HEPA filtering system.

In addition, not all of the air you’re breathing is filtered. Some of it is pulled from outside of the plane before being treated and sent through the aircraft. That amounts to about 60% of the air, so you are breathing primarily fresh air at all times.

The filtering system works on a continual basis. It pulls air from the floor level, typically by the windows, and pumps it out overhead.

If you really want to have the cleanest air possible, turn on the fan above your head and have it blowing directly down on you.

You will get the combination of filtered and fresh air so you aren’t breathing air that was just in the lungs of the person that’s near you.

Onboard a Virgin Atlantic Flight 2022

Is There Fresh Air On Planes?

Most people think that, since the airline is pressurized, there is no clean air being included in the mix. They envision that they are continually breathing in the same air over and over again throughout the entire flight.

In part, that is true because about 40% of the air that exits the cabin is filtered and brought back into the cabin again. What most people don’t realize, however, is that much of the air they are breathing is from outside of the cabin.

Although it is true that the airline is pressurized, there is still air being pulled in from outside and processed. It goes through an air conditioner to make sure that the oxygen level is where it needs to be and that it is cleaned before it enters the cabin.

At that point, the air is continually mixed and circulated. How quickly is it circulated? The air in the cabin is replaced every three minutes with brand-new air. If you hold your breath for three minutes, you will never breathe the same or twice.

Check out this YouTube video that shows how air is filtered on aircraft.

Why Do Airports Have A Distinct Smell?

Another question that many people have is regarding the smell of an airport. If you’ve ever paid attention, you probably realize that it is a very distinct smell, but what is it?

The smell at the airport is generally a combination of different odors that are not the most pleasant. This can include the breath and sweat from thousands of people that are rushing through the airport to try to catch a flight. In addition, you have the smell of jet fuel burning from the planes outside.

Most airports try to filter the air as much as possible in order to limit the odor. There are always going to be some types of issues, however, depending upon who is around you and what is around you. This could include everything from restaurants to somebody that could use a little more deodorant.

Onboard an Aircraft 2005

You might also notice that some airports have a very fresh smell. This is done on purpose. For example, in Singapore, one of the airports uses a mixture of spices and essential oils that are designed to keep you calm before you get on a flight. It is also very pleasant.

In the end, once you hit the airport, you can expect your olfactory senses to be very busy. You can at least be happy knowing that there may be some unpleasant smells, but the air is likely fresh.