Flatulence on airplanes: just let it go

N Z Med J. 2013 Feb 15;126(1369):68-74.


Flatus is natural and an invariable consequence of digestion, however at times it creates problems of social character due to sound and odour. This problem may be more significant on commercial airplanes where many people are seated in limited space and where changes in volume of intestinal gases, due to altered cabin pressure, increase the amount of potential flatus. Holding back flatus on an airplane may cause significant discomfort and physical symptoms, whereas releasing flatus potentially presents social complications. To avoid this problem we humbly propose that active charcoal should be embedded in the seat cushion, since this material is able to neutralise the odour. Moreover active charcoal may be used in trousers and blankets to emphasise this effect. Other less practical or politically correct solutions to overcome this problem may be to restrict access of flatus-prone persons from airplanes, by using a methane breath test or to alter the fibre content of airline meals in order to reduce its flatulent potential. We conclude that the use of active charcoal on airlines may improve flight comfort for all passengers.

MeSH terms

  • Aircraft*
  • Charcoal / therapeutic use*
  • Crowding*
  • Flatulence / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Interior Design and Furnishings / methods*
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Odorants / prevention & control*
  • Social Behavior
  • Travel*


  • Charcoal