Is there a standard for body odor? A family was denied passage on flight from MIA because of alleged body odor. Some cases are clear, others are not.

This family vehemently denies the odor claim: is there some objective or measurable standard?

  • There isn't a standard for too drunk or too loud or too much perfume to fly, either. The airline staff have to use some experience and professional judgment. After all, it's not just the odor that can force an emergency landing; consider the widely publicized case last year where uncontrolled flatulence led to a fistfight.
    – choster
    Jan 25, 2019 at 16:00
  • Incidentally, the man in the Transavia incident turned out to have been seriously ill with necrosis, and died a few weeks later.
    – choster
    Jan 25, 2019 at 16:03

2 Answers 2


While there are no standards regarding body odors, it is a real problem in some cases. Imagine sitting next to a passenger who is unaware of his/her body odors for a long period in a small place! that's really a pain.

I have faced this in my flights as a cabin crewmember, people complain about a passenger or group of passengers who "smell", but the rules in the airline I work for do not allow us to take them off the plane simply because they smell. We try to move these people to any seat away from passengers (if available), if not available we really have nothing else to do.

It's also important to mention that there are communities who did not discover deodorants yet. Flights to these destinations usually do not have this problem, as their standard of bad odor is different, only the crew would suffer in these destinations, but over the years we kinda get used to it, it's just the first few minutes. Some of these communities do really have a bad smell (according to the standards of people who have discovered deodorants) to the point that you actually can taste the smell! I personally try to avoid such routes, but it's like death, every crewmember will eventually get it.

Will AA get away with their decision? yes, most likely they will. The loophole is the basic safety guidelines:

If you hear, see or smell something weird, take an action.

So, in this case, since a few passengers complained, whoever took the decision thought of the greater good. Embarrassing, but good decision.


No, there is no real standard, nor about dressing code. But there were a lot of complains lately about electronic checking, which remove the initial screening of airline agents at check-in. [At check-in one could still do a shower (often free) and take some better attire. At gate there is no more time].

I do not know if such denying boarding will cause publicity damage of an airline, or good publicity (who had a smelly person few seats away will understand).

Note: airline employees have much discretionary choice anyway because of security concern (and remember last year one flight need to do an extra landing because of a "very smelly" person). And also a small smell could be seen as too much on such public and small places (this is an old social rule, now travel are more casual, but you never known how strict people are).

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