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The right to reek – smelly passengers hit the headlines

September 1, 2014 Aviation, Headline News No Comments Email Email

egtmedia59Just how smelly and unwashed can you be on an airline?

The question is not new, but it surfaced again last week in a case involving a 27-year-old Frenchman of Algerian origin. The man was identified in reports only by his first name, Mehdi. He has lodged a criminal complaint against American Airlines because cabin crew asked him to get off a flight to the United States because of his allegedly overwhelming body odour.

He  smelled so bad, according to crew, they called the police. Mehdi ended up departing the airliner voluntarily before it took off from Paris Charles de Gaulle airport for Dallas.Oooh-er!!

Now Mehdi has hit back, reporting the airline to police for alleged racial discrimination.

When contacted by French-based news agency AFP, the airline declined comment but suggested there had been a problem with the passenger’s visa.

Reports say the passenger tried to visit the toilet before take-off but was asked by a flight attendant to depart the plane, because of his odour.

“The crew and the passengers have complained about your smell,” a member of staff says in a video which AFP claims to have viewed.

“You’re with an American company, this is American territory, the captain has the right to refuse you. You will not be flying today.”

The Local, a site which specialises in French news in English, adds that the man was told to “take a shower”.

The man claims he covered himself with Dior perfume at the duty free shop, so smelled good, and American Airlines was just using smell as a pretext to get him off the plane.

American Airlines’ terms and conditions for passengers states that the company can refuse to transport a passenger if, among other things, they interfere with the crew, are barefooted, or “have an offensive odour not caused by a disability or illness”.

Problems relating to evil smells and/or body odour have bubbled up before. Airlines can refuse to carry stinking passengers. US Airways once ordered a “profoundly smelly” couple off an aircraft before it took off, after other passengers threatened to flee the plane. The precise nature of the couple’s problem was not disclosed, but the odour was so foul that the aircraft had to be removed from service for fumigation. “They stunk like wet goats,” an airline executive told this reporter later, with uncharacteristic bluntness.

Several years ago, an in-flight survey revealed that people suffering “personal hygiene problems” were twice as likely as drunks to be shunned by fellow travellers aboard aircraft. That’s not to say drunks are popular. Smelly drunks are perhaps the worst travelling companions of all.

Such olfactory challenges not confined to airlines. Earlier this year, in a controversial case, an allegedly smelly family were escorted out of the world famous Musée d’Orsay in Paris by four security guards.

In that case, a couple and a young child were on a special visit to the Left Bank gallery accompanied  by a volunteer from ATD (‘Everyone Act for Dignity’), which works with disadvantaged people.

French daily newspaper Le Figaro said a security guard approached the group of four and asked them to kindly leave the museum, because other visitors were “complaining about their smell”.

The charity-worker refused, arguing that the family were properly dressed. That failed to satisfy the security staff. They ordered the group out on the grounds that they smelled too strongly.

Written by Peter Needham

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