41

After my mom's Air Transat flight took off, her seatmate started to fart stinkingly. She can't tactfully complain to the cabin crew, as her seatmate'd know that she snitched on him. Fully opening the air vents didn't help. My mom couldn't tolerate inhaling sulphur for hours, and tried to solve this herself.

Seeing no empty seats in economy class, she walked to business class with her carry-on (fetched from the overhead bin), and found an empty seat. When the most senior cabin attendant spotted this (call him Purser), my mom explained the farting and asked if there were other economy seats. Purser replied that there were none, but just ordered her back to her economy class seat. My mom asked him what he could do, but he just said that he couldn't do anything. After the Purser threatened to arrest her if she didn't return, my mom tried to sit down, but still smell the farting at her seat. She asked if Purser had any masks or air sprays, but he said no.

Thus my mom spent the rest of her flight standing, wretchedly, in a galley. Yet for the last 30 minutes of her flight, Purser ordered her to return to her (stinky) seat for landing.

  1. Should my mom have been allowed this empty business class seat?

  2. What were possible in-flight solutions to this difficulty?

81

Passenger to Purser

Excuse me sir but someone here seems to be having a flatulence problem which is making me feel unwell. Could you please shift me somewhere else so i can enjoy the rest of my flight?

Purser

Ok ma'am let me see what i can do

That's the way to go and he/she surely will try to find some solution. Jumping to business class is a no no. Sorry but she paid for economy class and unless she is invited to the business class by the cabin crew nothing entitles her to be seated in the business class even if the whole plane is empty.

Edit

OK so i was on a flight (Non EU Airline departing from EU) a few hours ago and decided to ask the cabin crew about this situation to to add some anecdote to this answer. He said

A: If there is any discomfort during the flight the best thing to do is to ask cabin crew for assistance and they will do their best.

Next question:

Q: But if i can't see any empty seats and I would like to move away from mine?

A: We will take care of that for you.

Last question:

Q: But if there are some empty seats in the business class.

A: No sir, you're not allowed to go to the business class on your own.

Edit to include another anecdote:

So on the last flight of our 4 flight trip I thought ill inquire about an upgrade on the last flight (only a short 3 hour flight) and guess what the fee for an upgrade for an ordinary customer (no special privilege status with the said airline) was US$ 450. While it varies from airline to airline, they protect their money and privileges.

While requesting an upgrade I was told to pay 450, imagine if i had tried to self-upgrade mid flight.

  • 1
    What could they really do? – Loren Pechtel Jul 13 '18 at 23:39
  • 64
    @LorenPechtel: they could move the passenger with the most miles / highest status / most award points / earliest booking to business class, i.e. the passenger who actually did the most to "deserve" a free upgrade, the one who was next-in-line to get a free upgrade to business class anyway. Or, the one with the most immediate need, e.g. a single mother traveling with a baby. Or a veteran, a police officer, a firefighter, a nurse, or whomever else the the crew (not the passenger) feels like. Then, move the OP's mother to the newly freed-up seat in economy class. – Jörg W Mittag Jul 14 '18 at 8:15
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    @Thomas A single person and a carry on cannot matter for that. Otherwise when the crew brings food they'd have a bigger problem since there are usually 2 people + the food cart going around the plane. – Bakuriu Jul 15 '18 at 7:33
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    Right... her logic is "just do it", and when confronted, she'll simply tell her story and be believed. In actuality what happens is the staff confronts someone who has definitely cheated, and they expect a pack of lies, because that's what they always hear in this case. (this is partly self-fulfilling.) So her plan fails at "being believed", and what she missed is that she blew her own credibility. – Harper Jul 15 '18 at 16:26
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    @Thomas Weight distribution at the level of a single passenger is only significant on very small planes. – David Richerby Jul 15 '18 at 19:30
41

Unfortunately this is mostly a case of bad luck. The usability of your mom's seat was significantly reduced but in a manner that's mostly subjective. That leaves it in the discretion of the crew and the crew has the final say.

You are free to complain after the fact and some airlines will offer some form of compensation: typically credit towards future bookings or award miles/points. Rarely cash. If you have the stomach for it you can plow through their carriage of contract here https://www.airtransat.com/en-CA/Legal-notice/Conditions-of-carriage-and-tariffs and see if you can locate the actual policy.

There is nothing your mom could have done to get into business class. Business class is an extremely valuable asset to the airline and most of them will protect the revenue fiercely. They would only give a seat away for free in fairly extreme circumstances and even then only along the pecking order: i.e. upgrade the highest status passenger in the plane and then use the free economy seat to address the issue at hand.

So this is mostly in the discretion of the airline. Air Transat is a low cost carrier with a very mixed set of reviews so the outcome is not unexpected.

  • 2
    "They would only give a seat away for free in fairly extreme circumstances". This isn't true for North American airlines. The majority of the seats in domestic/regional premium cabins are free upgrades given away to passengers with frequent flyer status. – user71659 Jul 13 '18 at 14:04
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    @user71659: but these "free" upgrades are governed by very detailed and strict rules. It would be take extreme circumstances to go "out of order" and typically there are no open seats anyway – Hilmar Jul 13 '18 at 16:54
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    @user71659: besides what Hilmar said, I would erase the "North" in in "North America", as it is not true in Canada. – Martin Argerami Jul 14 '18 at 15:03
  • The point is airlines vary in their stinginess by region. Asian airlines are the worst. Some airlines in Asia will involuntary deny boarding over an op-up. North American airlines are the most relaxed about it. – user71659 Jul 14 '18 at 17:28
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    Given that Air Transat flies lots of international routes, it's entirely possible that that "empty" seat was reserved for a relief pilot to get some rest. – chrylis Jul 14 '18 at 20:19
28

After my mom's Air Transat flight took off, her seatmate started to fart stinkingly. She can't tactfully complain to the cabin crew, as her seatmate'd know that she snitched on him.

But it was discreet of her to take her case from the overhead compartment, in full view of the unfortunate, and possibly ill, passenger and go to the front of the plane, without even thinking of asking the crew?

Is it possible that someone who suffers from prolonged and extremely smelly flatulence only disturbs the passenger seating beside them? Smells in restricted closed spaces have a habit of spreading, the passengers seated in front and behind the unlucky person would also be aware of this foul-smelling "wind", especially if the emission of sulphur/sulfur imbued gas was continuous.

If stealing a business class seat, as the OP's mother had done, was permissible, what would stop a second, a third or fourth passenger from doing exactly the same?

In the mother's position, I would have stood up and approached one of the flight assistants and asked if they had or sold bags of peppermints. Purchased one, returned to my seat, opened the bag, popped a mint in my mouth and then invited my fellow passenger to take as many as they pleased.

Peppermint: A common mint given after meals, peppermint has been widely known for helping to settle the stomach and relieve gas quickly. Those suffering from chronic gas related issues may find that the use of peppermint can reduce symptoms during all times of the day. Peppermint contains antispasmodic properties that can help calm the intestinal muscles involved in releasing gas.

  • 5
    This is a great answer. Some things that we may simply assume are antisocial acts are actually symptoms of a medical issue. We know it's not appropriate to criticize people because they need help loading their wheelchair or oxygen tanks onto a plane. Why do we treat some things differently? Maybe the passenger is flying to see a doctor about their flatulence issue. You don't really know. – Robert Columbia Jul 15 '18 at 10:57
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    @RobertColumbia You're the first person to suggest that the person is engaging in "antisocial acts" and the idea that they might be criticized. It's hardly reasonable to describe bodily functions over which somebody has no conscious control as "antisocial". And nothing in the question is criticizing the flatulent passenger; it just asks how to get away from them. One can acknowledge that a situation is unpleasant without needing to blame the person. – David Richerby Jul 15 '18 at 19:38
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    @DavidRicherby it wasn't my impression that Robert was blaming the seat passenger at all. It seemed to me that the OP was totally supportive of his mother's distress but lacked a certain degree of empathy towards the other person's discomfort. – Mari-Lou A Jul 15 '18 at 19:52
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    @Mari-LouA Sure. But the OP never criticised or accused the person of being antisocial. One can ask for empathy without setting up straw men. – David Richerby Jul 15 '18 at 20:05
  • @DavidRicherby I can't help thinking that the person concerned should be conscious about the fact he/she is farting and could have chosen to self go to the back of the plane and/or sit in the toilet in order not to inconvene fellow passengers too much. – HarryH Jul 16 '18 at 20:20
12

The answer given by @phoog is certainly useful and I would try that. There is not much the crew can do if no same class seats are available.

A more effective solution is to apply some menthol cream to the nostrils. This something often done when visiting slaughter houses or tanneries where there is an unbearable stench.

11

One thing your mother could have done, had the plane had passenger-adjustable air vents overhead, would have been to open hers. This would have increased the air circulation around her, more quickly diluting the smelly gases and circulating them away from her.

A web search for the keywords airplane fart turns up some interesting articles, including an incident in which an airplane made an emergency landing after a physical altercation.

9

I strongly disagree with the sentiment of most answers. Being sensitive to smells myself, I can fully understand how your mother could not tolerate this situation, and even preferred to stand over sitting in that place.

However, I do agree that she did handle the situation badly. Trying to solve by herself is not a good approach. If she wanted to be discreet, she could have stood up, found the nearest steward or stewardess and approached them, away from the passenger in question.

They should have at least attempted to solve the situation. I don't think bad smells are such a unique event, and I would be surprised to learn they don't have at least some air fresheners to slightly improve the situation.

I also think that there is a limit to tolerance. If a smell is unbearable, you can and should talk to the person causing it. There are ways to handle this respectfully (a question over on IPS might be asked for, and it's a bit delicate, but it is possible).

Legally speaking, when she booked the ticket, she paid for more than just transportation from A to B. The airline is also obliged to provide an expected (i.e. common) standard of service and comfort. This may be very subjective in this particular case, but if the cabin crew does nothing, I would point to this fact and announce that I will not consider the service that was bought to have been delivered unless I can enjoy a minimum of comfort. The cabin crew is typically on a tight schedule especially during relatively short flights, which from your description I assume it was. So they try to solve problems quickly and efficiently, and while they are usually professional about it, sometimes you may have to make them understand that you are not going away until your problem is solved and solving it will be their quickest way to get rid of you.

  • 7
    On what grounds do you think you have any legal rights pertaining to the situation in question? Have you ever been seated close to the lavatory? The stench can be unbearable and there's no compensation nor is it possible to switch seats if the plane is full. The cabin crew can order you back (for the safety of the aircraft) to your seat and noncompliance allows them to take reasonable measures as stated in article 6 of the Tokyo Convention. – JJJ Jul 16 '18 at 1:20
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    "sometimes you may have to make them understand that you are not going away until your problem is solved and solving it will be their quickest way to get rid of you" - I am not sure harrassing the crew (which is what repeatedly asking them to solve a problem they have told you they can't solve) is useful. This just strikes me as an alternative way to have the purser threaten to arrest you.Though I have no idea what they do to arrested people - perhaps they would hold her somewhere other than her original seat... – Chris Jul 16 '18 at 13:32
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    @Chris Restraining unruly passengers is not unheard of: bizjournals.com/dallas/news/2018/02/02/… – Eric Jul 16 '18 at 15:13
  • @Eric: Indeed. My point was that if they have gone that far then they may put you somewhere they can keep an eye on you more closely - ie not your original seat. So it might solve the problem in a way, but at what cost... :) – Chris Jul 16 '18 at 15:18
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    @Eric neither are emergency landings which see the offending passengers escorted off by police. The fines aren't light either. See express.co.uk/news/world/648164/… – JJJ Jul 17 '18 at 3:46
6

Well, a stinky fart is unpleasant, it poses no real risks. As there was no risk, there's nothing really to be done. The cabin crew acted correctly, and the best your mother could have done is to mitigate the smell somehow.

Either that or become less sensitive to it. Sorry but go sit in the fart cloud for a few moments and the human brain will filter that stink out for you.

5

Nothing can be done in this situation as pretty much every action is going to leave someone unhappy and dissatisfied with the situation. Personally I think the way it was handled was rude, selfish and inconsiderate.

From the sounds of the question the flight was pretty full and what should be remembered is that your mom would not be the only person experiencing the problem with the smell from this person. How is it decided that she is able to escape this situation but others are not? Should always remember that maybe there is someone who is going to have more of an issue with situation or more deserving of an upgrade then yourself.

Also need to remember that you have no idea what is causing the flatulence and what the person has done to try and prevent that.

protected by JonathanReez Jul 19 '18 at 17:51

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