A fragrance-free flight would be impossible. How could you stop people from wearing perfume or aftershave, using scented soaps, body washes and hair products, or washing their clothes in strongly scented laundry products? You couldn’t. If someone is sensitive to synthetic fragrances, being on a plane is difficult.
But several airlines have made an already bad situation much worse by spraying “signature scents” in their airplane cabins.
This leaves us travelers sitting in a chemical soup of fragrances from fellow travelers, pesticide residue from when the airline sprayed the cabin and now harmful chemicals from the airlines “signature scent”. Better would be to create good air quality by filtration and more fresh air.
Airlines are Spraying Fragrances on Their Planes
The airlines call them “signature scents” and say they are part of building their brand and enhancing customer experience. Luckily, for regulatory reasons, they can’t use scent diffusers (plugin air fresheners) on the planes but they are using them in their lounges and terminals. In the cabins they are spraying the scents and infusing the hot towels with the scent.
Airlines using signature scents: Delta, United Continental, Turkish Airlines and Air Canada rouge. Spain’s Iberia and Alaska Airlines are about to start using them.
Two airlines tried this and then changed their minds: Quantas and British Airways. I wrote about British Airways in 2011 – British Airways – Please Don’t Pump Fragrance into Your Planes! Many people complained and they did not continue using fragrance.
Airlines say they are being subtle with these fragrances, so passengers who are sensitive won’t notice them. We may not notice them at first but after a few hours we will notice our symptoms.
Many People are Affected by These Synthetic Fragrances
In March 2009 a study in the “Journal of Environmental Health” (see resources) reported that 30.5% of the American population found scented products irritating.
- 30.5% reported irritation being near someone wearing a scented product
- 19% reported headaches, breathing difficulties or other problems when exposed to air fresheners or deodorizers
- 10.9% reported irritated by scent from laundry products, fabric softeners, or dryer sheets that are vented outside
The percentages were higher among those with asthma or chemical sensitivities.
Yes, people are affected by these synthetic fragrances. For more information about fragrances, read my post – Fragrance-free Vacation Rentals Please!
What Can We Do?
- If your airline uses synthetic fragrances, write to them and ask them to stop doing this.
- When you travel, carry handkerchiefs that you can use to cover your nose and mouth, so you don’t breathe in the chemicals. If you are very sensitive, consider using a face mask.
- Tell your friends that you are sensitive to fragrances. People need to understand that this is an issue. You may find others that feel the same way you do.
- Don’t buy any personal products or cleaning products that list “fragrance” or “parfum” on their ingredients.
- Don’t use perfume, cologne, aftershave, air freshener, scent sticks, scented body wash, scented soaps, etc. Do yourself a favor, do the planet a favor and help out the people sitting beside you on the plane.
- The Wall Street Journal – Airlines Try Signature Fragrances, but Not Everyone Is On Board, by Susan Carey, Feb. 1, 2015
Carriers Try Fragrances, but Some Passengers Aren’t On Board
- Journal of Environtmental Health – Prevalence of Fragrance Sensitivity in the American Population by Stanley M. Caress, Anne C. Steinemann, March 2009
I apologize for using a photo of a long distance cabin in business class, but it was all I had. Because we are both sensitive to fragrances, we use our miles to upgrade on long haul flights so we are not as crowded together in the cabin, giving us a little more space from our fellow travelers.