These Are The Foods You Should Never Eat On A Plane, According To Experts

We are coming up on one of the busiest travel weeks of the year, which means many of us are taking to the skies en route to see friends and family across the country. And unless you’re lucky enough to live a very short flight away from your nearest and dearest, at some point you’re likely to get hungry.

With many airlines offering little to nothing for sustenance these days, it can be tempting to plan ahead and bring on your meal. But not all foods are fair game for the open skies. To help you plan ahead, and roll your eyes knowingly next time you see someone we interviewed the professionals — flight attendants and an etiquette expert — on the foods you should probably avoid putting bringing onto a plane during the holiday season. Sorry, Cheetos, we’ll see you when we land.

Strong Smells

This one might seem obvious — we’re on a small space, and we’re all in this together. Foods that give off strong odors of any kind are probably a good idea to stay away from, says Lizzie Post, host of the podcast Awesome Etiquette.

Fish is an obvious one, and a commonly hated smell in small spaces. In fact, all three flight attendants we interviewed all independently counseled the same advice One even had a passenger bring on crab legs, which caused multiple complaints.

But, according to Post, another commonly hated smell might surprise you: Bananas. She also counsels against food that might smell too good, like takeout from popular fast food chains that are immediately recognizable. Joyce Foley, a flight attendant with Hawaiian Air, identifies the most common offenders of too-fragrant food as eggs, tuna fish, anything too garlicky, and fast-food burgers.

“If it smells insanely good and you’re abut to be on a flight for five hours, its almost tortuous to other people,” she says.

Sloshy Liquids

While drink service is still common in all but the shortest flights, Post also cautions against bringing in liquids that could slosh around too easily, like fountain drinks. If you’re going to bring a beverage onboard, it's best to go with a closed container that can be more easily secured in case of turbulence or needing to close your tray for landing or to allow a seat mate to escape to the bathroom.

Messy Foods

And speaking of tray tables — foods purchased in the terminal that require a lot of set-up and break-down aren’t a great idea either, says Post. (Think sushi that you might want to dip in soy sauce that would be susceptible to spills, or food that requires a fork and knife.) Stick to foods like sandwiches that can be quickly re-wrapped if you hit turbulence or need to get up.

But not all discretely packaged foods are safe. Mapuana Faulkner, another flight attendant with Hawaiian Airlines, says she has “seen and smelled it all” in the twenty years she’s been a flight attendant and has come to the conclusion that the messiest possible food happens to also be one of our favorites: Cheetos. Unless you want to make it look like a orange-dusted crime scene, save those for after landing.

Salty & Sweet

Aside from general etiquette and portability, there’s also the issue of taste at altitude. Studies have found that your ability to taste salty and sweet actually decrease at altitude. This also can affect how you taste alcohol.

“Wine also seems to be more acidic and watery when consumed in-flight, so you may not enjoy that glass of rosé as much as you would on the ground,” says Faulkner.

But the loss of flavor might not be just because of changes in your tastebuds. “From my experience, I find meats and fish tend to dry out more when flying due to the low humidity and dry air,” says Joyce Foley, another attendant with Hawaiian Airlines. If you’re packing food for a mid-flight snack, you might find it’s aged less well than if you waited a few hours to eat on land.

And About That Drink Order...

Wanting an adult beverage in-flight is understandable. But you are going to have to restrict yourself to the drinks for sale from the airline. “Basically, flight attendants are the only ones that can serve alcohol as we have to have control how much is being consumed,” says Foley. So while it might be tempting to buy something in duty free to save money, you won’t actually be legally allowed to have any while on board. So either plan on buying a drink on board or having a responsible amount of drinks before boarding if that’s something you’ll want to do during your travels.

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