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FatCat
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Re: The Smell of Airline Cabins

Thu Feb 20, 2020 2:52 pm

reltney wrote:
I worked at the Pima Air museum when I was training in the A7 and F-16.


Can you smell my envy? Because it's so strong I think it could be smelled.
Oh well I may say - you haven't flown on the Crusader.

Cockpits smells are made mostly by glues and plastics. Same in cars, in planes - fighters and more in general planes with small cabins tends to have stronger odours, by the way.
So earlier in 2019 I've bought a new Ford. When I went to the showroom, waiting for the salesman, I jumped in the new Mondeo (Fusion in the US) and BANG I was back in 1993, in a cold early November afternoon, when my dad, mom, little brother and I went to take the all new Mondeo 1.8. I almost burst into tears
Aeroplane flies high
Turns left, looks right
 
YYZYYT
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Re: The Smell of Airline Cabins

Thu Feb 20, 2020 3:21 pm

DLX737200 wrote:
The might seem like an odd post but the thought crossed my mind tonight:

Ever since I took my first flight as a 7 year old, I remember the cabin of airliners having a particular smell. It's distinct and noticeable and 25 years later, I still notice it. Smell is one of the most powerful senses with memory and every time I board a plane, my memory rushes back to numerous trips that started with an airline flight. It's a pleasant smell. Not offensive or disturbing. But I believe it's unique to airline cabins.

So what is that smell? Is it the seats? The carpet? The cabin walls? A mixture of interior and coffee in the galley? I used to think it was a cleaning solution but 10 years ago while I was in college I used to clean a wide variety Delta aircraft 5 nights a week and I never found a cleaning solution that we used that smelled like the quintessential smell of an airliner cabin.

So share your thoughts. I'd love to hear them!


OMG Yes! It's not the bad odors that people describe, it is the smell of the cabin, particularly when fresh. It hits you the very second you step through L1 (or even better, L2 which usually meant 747 lol).

And for nearly 50 years, I thought I was the only one who knew what that "airplane smell" was. Friends, family - heck, anyone - I explained it to seemed to have no clue what I was talking about. Awesome thread - thank you for posting!

PSU.DTW.SCE wrote:
Yep, I know that smell well too. The onboard smell combined with the sounds of screaming JT8Ds and the smell of jet fuel and exhaust on the ramp.
The overwhelming aroma of coffee in the forward galley too as you got onboard.


Award for best description of the overall experience of smells when flying (as it used to be). Add some visual cues - passengers in suit and tie, airline branded carry-on bags, the "Aircrew Wings" that they used to give out to kids... and the incomparable view from the plate-glass terminal windows into the cockpit of a 747. I'm 6 years old, all over again

oldannyboy wrote:
Ohhh, actually today's aircraft cabins, with the exception of more 'exotic' airlines, tend to smell a lot less that in the olden days.


Again, agree totally. It's just another reason why flying these days is not like it used to be.
 
buzzard302
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Re: The Smell of Airline Cabins

Thu Feb 20, 2020 3:33 pm

To me the predominant smells are coffee, seat leather, and engine exhaust.
 
retiredmx
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Re: The Smell of Airline Cabins

Thu Feb 20, 2020 4:06 pm

I totally agree, I remember going to the airport in the 60’s and hanging out around the gate area at SFO. The planes would park and when the jetway door was opened that smell would permeate the area. I loved it, I wanted to fly somewhere. Now here is another smell, as a retired mechanic, my first job was at United’s mtc base at SFO. The smell I remember most was of sealants used such as 1435. Anybody else agree?
 
Capt.Fantastic
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Re: The Smell of Airline Cabins

Thu Feb 20, 2020 4:31 pm

I've determined the 1980's airplane smell to be a concoction of:
Coffee
Cigarette smoke
Liquor
Fuel fumes

I used to love that smell. If they bottled it, I'd buy it.
 
N649DL
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Re: The Smell of Airline Cabins

Mon Jul 27, 2020 7:59 pm

baje427 wrote:
I know AA's 757's have a very recognizable scent.


They definitely do (or did.) Same deal with much of the AA legacy cloth fleet, but the newer 737s with leather do not.

All of Delta's middle-aged leather seats with the older AVOD systems on the 763s, 757s, and 738s smelled the same. And the sUA 757s always smelled like coffee and jet fuel in the back of Y.
 
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airportugal310
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Re: The Smell of Airline Cabins

Mon Jul 27, 2020 8:07 pm

I've flown 8 flights in the past 3 months, and airplanes smell like hospital rooms now. And that's not a bad thing, at all, if you ask me...
“They bought their tickets, they knew what they were getting into. I say, let 'em crash.”
 
Noshow
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Re: The Smell of Airline Cabins

Mon Jul 27, 2020 8:20 pm

The daily use aircraft cabin smells mostly of jet exhaust, jet fuel, sweat and maybe coffee it seems. Not too bad.
But well used aircraft cabins in heavy maintenance with sidewalls taken off smell like hell. Think main station restroom. There must be a mixture of constant condensation humidity and maybe slightly leaking pipes that create this very strong odor. Smart crews used to try to open all cabin doors whenever sitting idle on the ground during the good old days to let air stream through the cabin and to dry the insulation.
Last edited by Noshow on Mon Jul 27, 2020 8:34 pm, edited 1 time in total.
 
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JLGordon
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Re: The Smell of Airline Cabins

Mon Jul 27, 2020 8:33 pm

If you have a job directly at the aircraft and you are always one of the first persons there when the door opens you can tell where the flight is coming from, just because of the different smell patterns. After some time of "daily practice".
And just to mention: There ist NOTHING that matches the great smell of a brand new aircraft just after its delivery flight. Whenever I had the chance, I just drove by and took a nose. No words to descibe it. And Boeing smells different than Airbus. Forgive me, but both smell just great when they are new.
 
Noshow
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Re: The Smell of Airline Cabins

Mon Jul 27, 2020 8:38 pm

It smells mostly like fresh glue, carpets and new plastic. But low key. I like no scratches on belt buckles and everything is spit shiny mint condition. Nothing is dirty. Restrooms feel as clean as hospital intensive care units.
 
2eng2efficient
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Re: The Smell of Airline Cabins

Mon Jul 27, 2020 8:47 pm

There is that somewhat disconcerting smell at the end of a long flight when 200 people stand up simultaneously and you get some interesting whiffs, to say the least.
 
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oxonrow
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Re: The Smell of Airline Cabins

Mon Jul 27, 2020 9:09 pm

While at uni, I worked for BA at JFK for a few months. There was a spray, I don't recall whether only premium cabins got it or the whole aircraft, but you board up front so the smell welcomes you abroad regardless. This was an aspect of branding. An older colleague told me that Pan Am had a fragrance as well -- she worked for them when they were still around. So yes, it is or at least was definitely there. When the aircraft came in, you got a whiff of very stale air when the door opened. If you were at the gate for boarding, you'd get a whiff of that BA fragrance. It made the cabin smell clean -- probably cleaner than it was.
 
richiemo
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Re: The Smell of Airline Cabins

Mon Jul 27, 2020 9:12 pm

What a great post!!!! I have wondered the same for years. Was it the electrical systems? The leather seats? The air freshner? We may never know. I always compared it to the new car smell. It's heavenly. At one point I actually wondered if it was aromatherapy aimed at getting you to fly more.
 
brilondon
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Re: The Smell of Airline Cabins

Mon Jul 27, 2020 9:12 pm

Airhaiku wrote:
I don’t agree with critics here who complain about body odour, toilet etc.
These bad smells probably accumulate towards the end of the flight, especially long haul.
But on entering the plane, there is always that fresh and nice feel. Fresh and clean smell, tidy seats, well groomed flight attendants.
And that aspect is always there, no matter if later you receive superb or mediocre service. And I had that feeling in absolutely all airplanes I entered. And I travelled with most european airlines, many asian and a few american and afican.
The only thing that changed in time is intensity of the smell. I remember a distinctive, pretty strong smell of fresh cabin in my childhood in the late 70’s and 80”s. It was so distinctive that I always conected this small with an aircraft cabin. Later, unfortunately it disappeared. Probably they use less strong cleaning chemicals.
But I miss that old smell!

Or, the cabins are not as clean as you think.
With such tight turn arounds any more, there is little the few people can do to clean the aircraft. It doesn't help if the passengers around you take off their shoes and walk around the cabin in their filthy, disgusting feet. Just an observation when I traveled for business.
Rush forever Closer To My Heart
 
COSPN
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Re: The Smell of Airline Cabins

Mon Jul 27, 2020 9:53 pm

Lavatory blue juice
 
CobaltScar
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Re: The Smell of Airline Cabins

Mon Jul 27, 2020 10:02 pm

umm, I can't say I notice a particular smell to cabins. Sure I spell different things in there from time to time, but nothing universal. Might be your senses playing tricks with you, they say smell is the most primitive sense.
 
USAirALB
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Re: The Smell of Airline Cabins

Mon Jul 27, 2020 10:30 pm

Very random, but I have found that the smell of IKEA stores on the inside (at least those in the states) have a similar "airplane-cabin" like smell.
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bretonrlong
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Re: The Smell of Airline Cabins

Mon Jul 27, 2020 10:39 pm

Southwest has sort of a leather upholstery, felt/carpet, coffee and lingering Jet A smell.
 
bakestar
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Re: The Smell of Airline Cabins

Mon Jul 27, 2020 11:05 pm

oh, how i miss them all right now!! hahahahaha. (Greetings from Melbourne)
fly'nhi
 
N649DL
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Re: The Smell of Airline Cabins

Mon Jul 27, 2020 11:24 pm

Another really odd one is a lot of the sCO fleet at UA still smells the same as it did in the late 1990s / early 2000s: Blue Lav Juice and carpet cleaner. Nowadays it's the same but add in the new leather seat covers in addition to that since the original smell is likely well embedded into the sidewalls and overhead bins.
 
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DiegoSS02
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Re: The Smell of Airline Cabins

Mon Jul 27, 2020 11:30 pm

The first smell I remember from my early childhood is from the cabin of the TAM Fokker 100s I flew back in the mid-2000s. It was basically a very strong leather-like odor, as the seats had grey leather upholstery. Much to my dismay, they changed it to fabric later on.
 
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lightsaber
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Re: The Smell of Airline Cabins

Mon Jul 27, 2020 11:32 pm

afcjets wrote:
filbrkz wrote:
Another smell I miss is that of jet fuel- I guess the jet bridges are so well built/air conditioned these days, the odors from the ramp don't make their way up there (at least beyond the area by the aircraft door). Flying is so antiseptic today compared to those days! But there are many more flights to choose from, and it's cheaper! Another factor I didn't see mentioned is that strong odors seem to have been engineered out of plastics- another case of for better or for worse!


In the very early 1980s when I was 10 or 11 on the way to the airport before a trip with total excitement I said I can't wait to smell that jet fuel! My parents laughed and still remember it. I think you can still smell it today it's just not as strong. Since our family vacations where we flew almost always involved a morning flight on the outbound, you could also smell baked cheese omelettes or similar in addition to the coffee and cigarette smoke.

The cigarette smoke became less noticeable as they kept moving the smoking section sign back as demand shrank until they banned it completely. I think there was a time when it was almost half the Y cabin but I remember only as much as about 25%. Eventually it seems it was just the last three rows in coach on narrow bodies. It was always just the last row in F from what I can remember.

The old days, all I smelled were the cigarettes and the smell cigarettes left in cloth. Coming from a non-smoking family, that smell of cigarettes was incredibly intense.

Now it is sanitizers, a spritz of JetA, people, and a little of the food.

It definitely doesn't smell like a subway though...

Lightsaber
Winter is coming.
 
Western727
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Re: The Smell of Airline Cabins

Mon Jul 27, 2020 11:43 pm

I remember flying on N518US in the early 2000s shortly after it had been parked in the desert for some months. It had a unique smell to it that reminded me of its longtime sealed-in-the-desert stint.
Jack @ AUS
 
phatfarmlines
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Re: The Smell of Airline Cabins

Tue Jul 28, 2020 12:27 am

The fragrance the OP is mentioning was more profound on the then-older aircraft when you flew in the 1990's (think 727-200s, 737-200s, Airbus A300-B2/B4s, L-1011's, DC-10's, any aircraft which flew during the 70's and operating during the 90's). There was a difference depending on the time of day you flew, so if on a morning flight, the smell of coffee mixed in with the other scents was much more noticable than on an evening flight.

These fragrances for the most part don't exist anymore. Airlines may also use their own patented "signature scent" in the cabins these days.
 
9Patch
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Re: The Smell of Airline Cabins

Tue Jul 28, 2020 6:03 am

Airhaiku wrote:
But on entering the plane, there is always that fresh and nice feel. Fresh and clean smell, tidy seats, well groomed flight attendants.
And that aspect is always there, no matter if later you receive superb or mediocre service. And I had that feeling in absolutely all airplanes I entered.


You must not have ever flown on an old Delta (Northwest) 757. They don't necessarily smell but the cabin is not fresh and nice. Ratty carpet and grimy hand marks around the latches of the overhead bins. Broken seat backs that won't stay up in the forward position. :yuck:
 
Redbellyguppy
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Re: The Smell of Airline Cabins

Tue Jul 28, 2020 6:37 am

You should smell it before I start the apu.

Back in the day it was coffee, steam table from the galley meal heaters, exhaust, leather, and ass.

On the newer ones it’s still coffee, leather, exhaust, and ass.

You’ll often see a packet of coffee grounds used as a deodorizer in the lavs, tucked under the coat hook. Celeste makes the lav spray deodorant but that doesn’t work as well.
 
Arion640
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Re: The Smell of Airline Cabins

Tue Jul 28, 2020 7:07 am

BA’s 747’s always had a certain smell I never noticed on other aircraft types. Not a bad smell, but noticeable.
 
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cirrusdragoon
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Re: The Smell of Airline Cabins

Tue Jul 28, 2020 9:23 pm

the smell of a thousand bums
 
N649DL
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Re: The Smell of Airline Cabins

Tue Jul 28, 2020 10:22 pm

Western727 wrote:
I remember flying on N518US in the early 2000s shortly after it had been parked in the desert for some months. It had a unique smell to it that reminded me of its longtime sealed-in-the-desert stint.


All the old NW 319 / 320s have been completely gutted since then and in no way, shape or form smell at all like the NW days at DL. Even the overhead bins and cabin control panels have been replaced.

As an occasional smoker, I wish I could've had the opportunity to *at least* try once or twice smoking on a plane for the hell of it.
 
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rj968
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Re: The Smell of Airline Cabins

Wed Jul 29, 2020 12:06 am

What a fun topic, sure beets AB vs Boeing all the time. Like many people at Delta (airport ops) I started as a midnight shift cabin cleaner (Dept 139 – Cabin Service). At the time all seat covers, 1st or coach, were cloth, and of course smoking was allowed. The DC-9’s, DC-8’s and 727’s had dark Orange carpet, blue and purple 1st class, and Orange and yellow coach seats covers. Oh the 70’s. Tri-Stars were a bit better. We used a carpet cleaner called “Argosheen”. I just Googled it and they still make it! Anyway, it really left a fresh smell in the plane for the first flight of the day. Another product was a spray air freshener (can’t remember the name). There was a can or bottle of the air freshener in each galley. This stuff would really knock down a bad lav or smoking smell. It was frequently used on quick turns during the day. But nothing beats the smell on Jet-A in the morning!
 
SXDFC
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Re: The Smell of Airline Cabins

Wed Jul 29, 2020 2:03 am

The Cessna 172, or any GA a/c for that matter also has a very distinct smell.

I must say I worked N8504G on its 4th revenue flight, And I could only briefly smell the “new plane smell.” IMHO the -700s when they were brand new had a stronger “new plane smell.” How long does a “new plane smell” last for anyways?

Which airlines tend to smell the worst?
 
klkla
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Re: The Smell of Airline Cabins

Wed Jul 29, 2020 4:07 am

The Cessna 172 definitely has a distinctive smell that reminds me of an old auto repair shop.

On passenger aircraft it often smells like burned coffee (Like the pot would smell if all the liquid evaporated but the heat was still on).
 
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Ty134A
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Re: The Smell of Airline Cabins

Wed Jul 29, 2020 6:19 am

Cool post! So these distinctive smells made me wondering as well, but not that kind of smell you have in a Boeing ir Airbus, they basically smell the same. Fokker 70/100s when they were still around here had an earwaxy smell in the rear, and all the crews and maintenance I talked to more ore less thought it was moisture not being able to ventilated in the back and after time causing this smell. The Fokkers were to most distinctive smelling planes in the West.

That brings us to the East. Any Russian jet, be it a Yak or Ilyushin, Antonov, Kamov, Tupolev, Mil... they all share THIS certain smell. It is the same from Korea to Africa. It is so special (it is not disgusting) that it is noticeable even to non Avgeeks. It in fact is something you remember from the 3rd trip or so, as you start to connect this to the aircraft. And all the crews know it, everybody knows it. And no, after even a decade, the Russian smell will not be noticeable on a Russian Boeing.

I talked about this a hundred rimes with different crews, test pilots,... everybody notices the smell, nobody knows where it‘s from.

Anybody know?
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