What’s With the Smell Inside Commercial Airplanes? – Monroe Aerospace News
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What’s With the Smell Inside Commercial Airplanes?

What’s With the Smell Inside Commercial Airplanes?

Have you ever walked aboard a commercial airplane, only to discover a distinct smell inside the cabin? Well, you aren’t alone. While there are dozens of different types of commercial airplanes, many of them share a similar smell. It’s a musky, somewhat unpleasant smell that many people associate with flying. In this post, we’re going to reveal why commercial airplanes have this distinct smell.

Jet Fuel

The distinct smell inside commercial airplanes is often attributed to jet fuel. During flight, commercial airplanes burn a mixture of jet fuel and oxygen in their engines to produce propulsion. When jet fuel burns, it creates odorous vapors that may enter the cabin. Commercial airplanes often suck in air from outside. If the air contains fuel vapor, it will likely smell. This is just one of many potential reasons why commercial airplanes smell.

Stale Air

Commercial airplanes don’t circulate fresh air in the cabin. Instead, they recirculate the same air by running it through filters. While the filters catch some of the odor-causing compounds, they don’t catch them all. As these odor-causing compounds accumulate in the air, it can create a distinct smell that resonates through the cabin.

Food and Beverages

Of course, the smell inside commercial airplanes could be the result of food and beverages. Most commercial airlines offer food and beverages to their customers. Coffee, for instance, is frequently served to passengers. And with its strong smell, coffee can leave a unique odor in the cabin. Airplanes also serve food, which depending on the type, may create a unique odor as well. Regardless, food and beverages are often an underlying factor in the distinct smell aboard commercial airplanes.


You might be surprised to learn that some commercial airplanes are treated with insecticide. Known as aircraft disinsection, it’s designed to eliminate insects and other pests that could otherwise carry diseases during international flights. Commercial airlines will treat both the interior and exterior of their airplanes with insecticide. The insecticide products used for aircraft disinsection are generally safe for passengers. They can, however, leave a lingering odor.

It’s important to note that not all commercial airplanes suffer from bad odors. Some airlines go great lengths to create a pleasant cabin environment that’s devoid of bad odors. If you discover a musky odor when flying, though, it could be attributed to one of the four following things: jet fuel, stale air, food and beverages, or insecticide.