Is it really wrong to bring “smelly” food on-board a Delta flight?

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Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.


mj on travel buys rene delta points steak sandwich in jax florida on delta mileage run

In yesterday’s swag Saturday giveaway there were some fascinating reader comments about what is and what is not acceptable behavior on a Delta jet. Some of the responses really made me shudder and others I thought to myself maybe, maybe not.

1st class dining times and options on delta flights

One of the things I think I really disagree with, and maybe because I do it myself, is bringing food on board a flight. Delta has very specific and published guidelines when a meal will be provided on Delta jets. However, as we have seen things can go wrong, and you may or may not get the meal you expect. Also food for purchase may or may not be available depending on catering that is outsourced by Delta. Lastly you may be in that strange window of time even on a long flight where no food is provided end of story from Delta (see highlighted bits above from Delta.com).

So should we be careful about what food we bring on-board and only bring food that has no smell. Take for example the outstanding steak sandwich I enjoyed on my final mileage run for 2013 with MJ. We did not buy it on-board but at a sub shop next to the gate and I am sure we did probably make the rest of the first class cabin rather hungry (they really were good sandwiches).

Was this really unacceptable behavior? I don’t think so since on-board choices are hit-N-miss and we can no longer use a HOOU to buy snacks! To me food smells are very different from all the other truly offensive things the passengers can do on board a flight. I mean if food smells are offensive then what about all those poor people in coach who have to put up with the food smells from the first class cabin on many flights? Should the last few rows of first-class not be served a meal so that the first few rows in coach don’t have to put up with the food smells?

Your turn to shout out and let me know if bringing “smelly” food on board is truly wrong for Delta flyers or should we only bring certain types of food on the plane? – René
Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.

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Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

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.

René de Lambert is a contributing writer and the founder of RenesPoints. He is an avid Delta and SkyTeam flyer who has held Delta’s top Diamond Medallion status for many years and flown millions of miles.


  1. Yes, its absolutely unacceptable. A steak sandwich is nothing compared to the rancid stuff many bring on board.

    Its simple, really… as a passenger more people need to realize they are with other people. Its not all about YOU. Think about what you are about to open up with passengers around you. Think about how you swing your bag walking down the aisle. Think about how slow you are deplaning when others need to get to their flights. The list goes on…

    Common sense seems to go out the window when we fly. If more people used it, this wouldn’t be an issue.

  2. I can’t stand it when someone starts eating their hour old steak sandwich and smells up the entire section. How about a granola bar? Or Peanut M&M’s? They don’t smell.

    However, I am weird and blame the fact that I work in the fragrance industry. My nose is hyper sensitive.

  3. I have no problem with people bringing ‘smelly’ foods on the plane. My first problem s define ‘smelly’ French fries? Popcorn? Balut? My second problem is determining that someone is an offender after getting off some over seas 10 hour sky fest for a 45 minute layover clearing customs with just enough time to grab something before assuming your coach class torture chair. You have to live with these smells walking through the airport, why not endure 20 minutes of offense for a fellow passenger a moments respite to enjoy sustenance I may not approve of? Now the WWF wrestlers I sat between in my middle ‘friendship’ seat who didn’t bother to shower before the flight was a bit more offensive IMO, but I have traveled by air >24 hours before, and I was disgusted at myself for the odor I was emitting. Apparently antiperspirant has a limit to its abilities.

  4. I don’t know if there is a clear cut answer on this. I have been next to people with food and the smell really bothered me. Sometimes because it wasn’t a pleasant smell to me – other times because I wish I would have grabbed something in the terminal before boarding! Other times, there is food where the smell is almost pleasant.

    I don’t have a problem bringing food on board and I seldom give any thought to the smell of that food. I guess I take the attitude if this is the worst thing that happens to me today, I am doing OK!

    My two cents!

  5. Bringing on food isn’t a problem to me. Mostly, when I smell it, I wish I had brought something. None of the food smells I recall on flights have been really unpleasant.

  6. Judy from Boise Reply

    The smells don’t offend me as much as the sounds! People crunching their way through the loudest snacks ever, then. Moving onto chewing ice……..luckily headphones can solve the issue.

  7. it’s only a problem if you NOT willing to share. Because you make everyone else around you hungry.
    So next time if it’s that good than you should bring enough of everybody who wants one and we all can enjoy.
    I do have problems with body odors, stinky feet, etc…

  8. To all the food critics who object to my eating “greasy, smelly” food. Do you object to the food or the fact that I do not have enough for everyone? Next time I will be sure to poll those in the gate area to determine what food has the proper fat content and aroma that I might be allowed to consume it in your presence. Sheesh.

  9. Smelly is a problem when I have had to run to catch a flight and didn’t have time to get anything for a “no food service” connection. Greasy and smelly is worse. Bringing a pizza box, trying to balance it on your lap and discovering you have no napkins to wipe your hands and trying to get the attention of the FA to help you when he/she is trying to get the plane loaded and off the ground on schedule is a little over the top!

  10. RichmondFlyer Reply

    Who will be the “smell judge”? Will FAs now have to ask passengers to put away food they paid for if more than (??) people complain? What’s on the prohibited list – onion and garlic bagels, sauerkraut, fried chicken, coffee? You can’t bring food into sports stadiums because they SELL food. I doubt any airline can afford to offer real meal choices for purchase so this is just part of the new normal. Let’s put on our big boy and big girl pants and deal with another reality of flying today. While we’re on the topic of smells – ever sit next to or near someone removing finger nail polish or polishing their nails? TSA (3-1-1) won’t pick up acetone and i’ve never seen polish confiscated.

  11. You have perfectly outlined the reasons that people will bring on food Renè. Except for First Class, there are few decent options, sometimes even for coffee. And food is a personal choice. What may smell bad to me may be fine with you. It’s the impact of today’s world travel. I’m really more upset with smelly feet on the bulkhead or seat near my head.

  12. TexasYankee Reply

    Many times I will pick up breakfast burritos on the way to the airport to enjoy on the plane due to lower cost and higher quality. Many have onions so I ask the people directly next to me on both sides if they mind the onion (and etc.) smells. Generally there is no problem. I have done the same for long travel when I bring on a cheeseburger and no one has ever said no. I do eat quickly so that the other passengers do not have to suffer as they have to wait for the airline stuff.

    On the other hand some of the things I have endured from people on International flights is downright disgusting!

  13. I think it’s okay to bring food on board to sustain yourself or your diet, but I personally think anything smelly should be avoided. (Deli items can be especially smelly.) I know I have had to cover my nose with my jacket on flights when someone brings an overwhelming stinky meal into my row. I try to be considerate by bringing dry, filling foods that don’t smell much, if at all, or the occasional Auntie Anne’s pretzel which hopefully isn’t too offensive. 🙂

  14. As somebody whose miles mostly come from trips to Africa, I agree totally with James (#3). When I’ve got 25-40 hours travel door to door and potentially back to back red-eyes, I’m on survival rules: find food when you can, eat when you’re hungry. That being said, I think only the college-age version of me was ok with carrying a buffalo chicken sandwich (guilty!) or a gyro on board (looking at you, DTW Mediterranean grill).

  15. I think bringing smelly food on a plane makes great sense. I would hope the annoyance factor would change the inconsistencies we see with meal service on Delta. Being a diabetic, not having access to food when promised can be a real problem. So cause enough complaints to get the right changes or smelly food + bad rewards program rewards the other airlines until real change happens.

  16. Smelly food is not the usual problem, smelly people are much larger problem. No, it is not okay to mow and rake your yard and then race to the airport for your flight. Ditto playing two hours of basketball, running a marathon, working out in a gym, etc., etc. without showering prior to boarding a sardine can for a 3-hour flight. Bring your food, just not your body odor.

  17. Smelly foods don’t offend me so much as tend to make me nauseated. So if you don’t mind my using the sick bag next to you, go ahead and eat your sandwich! Usually am not bothered in First, but I’ve also usually already been served a cold snack, which helps immensely. While there are a few cold items that go airborne, hot foods almost always do, and I would NEVER subject my fellow passengers to them.

  18. I personally love nothing more than picking up Popeyes in Atlanta, even on a tight connection, which usually winds up with me having to carry it on board and the rest of the FC cabin smelling the Fried Chicken and Fried Okra (sorry guys and gals)…..gotta eat when you gotta eat!

  19. I have never been bothered by something another passenger is eating on a flight, but i have a truly terrible time with fragrances/perfumes, and truly wish people would STOP wearing any fragrances in places like planes where others will be trapped near them and can’t get away or get fresh air. A lot of fragrances and things like dryer sheets are not only unpleasant, but truly toxic. More and more people are sensitive to fragrances, and it can really ruin a flight to not be able to breathe.

  20. Other peoples’ smelly food does not make me hungry, it makes me feel nauseated. McDonalds is the worst.

  21. Pingback: Rookie Wednesday: Post #100 - Delta FOOD! What are all the options on Delta flights? - Delta PointsDelta Points

  22. How about taking fried chicken and potato salad on a flight from Atl to portland?

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