These Are the Foods That Flight Attendants Say You Should Never Eat on a Plane

Airline food is notoriously bad — to the extent that Anthony Bourdain said that he would never eat it on his frequent travels around the world. There are plenty of things that flight attendants won’t tell you about airplane food, especially not the fact that most of them don’t want to eat the food served by the airline. But if you’re following flight attendants’ cues and bringing your own food onto the plane, you have to think about which foods are and aren’t a good idea to pack for a flight.

These are the foods flight attendants and other experts say you should never eat on a plane, including one that could make your feet swell up (No. 11).

1. Fish and seafood

A business class meal on a flight

Airline meal | Aureliy/ iStock/ Getty Images Plus

Refinery29 reports that if you want to stay on the good side of the flight attendants (and your seatmates), you should try not to eat anything with a strong smell on your next flight. Lizzie Post, great-great-granddaughter of Emily Post and host of the Emily Post Institute’s Awesome Etiquette podcast, as well as three flight attendants, told Refinery29 that passengers should avoid bringing fish onto a flight.

Next: Don’t pack this popular fruit. 

2. Bananas

Banana, cappuccino, and airline boarding passes

A banana, a cappuccino, and boarding passes. | artoleshko/ iStock/ Getty Images Plus

Lizzie Post also told Refinery29 that many people hate the smell of bananas. Plenty of people say that the smell makes them feel nauseated. While you may or may not end up seated near someone who can’t stand the smell, the aroma is strong enough that it might be best to avoid them. You might want to pick a different fruit as your mid-flight snack.

Next: Think twice about ordering this at the airport. 

3. Takeout food and fast food

A meal served on a plane

A meal served on a plane | nalinratphi/ iStock/ Getty Images Plus

Takeout food and fast food are also frequent offenders in the smell category, according to Refinery29. Post told the publication that it’s a bad idea to bring along food “that might smell too good, like takeout from popular fast food chains that are immediately recognizable.” It might smell great — or terrible — to other people. But either way, the odor will be strong. And you may find that both your seatmates and the flight attendants aren’t pleased.

Next: This food isn’t a good idea, even if you order it from the airline. 

4. Eggs

An airline meal with omelet and fruit

An airline serves an omelet and fruit. | filmlandscape/ iStock/ Getty Images Plus

Joyce Foley, a flight attendant with Hawaiian Air, told Refinery29 that eggs also make the list of foods that are too fragrant to eat on a flight. And even eggs served by the airline are a no-go for a different reason, according to Business Insider. One flight attendant explained that the scrambled eggs or omelets that airlines serve don’t just contain egg, but can also contain egg substitutes. Along with the other food that airlines serve, these meals weren’t prepared in the galley, but at a catering facility days before you consume them. Appetizing, right?

Next: Try to leave this herb out of your meals. 

5. Garlic-laden foods

A meal served during a flight

An airline serves a meal in the economy cabin. | Diy13/ iStock/ Getty Images Plus

The flight attendants also told Refinery29 that passengers might want to think twice about packing garlic-laden foods to eat on a flight. The smell is just too strong, even if it smells delicious. (And while some of your fellow passengers probably love garlic, there are also many people who hate it.) Foley explained a good rule of thumb to keep in mind, “If it smells insanely good and you’re about to be on a flight for five hours, it’s almost torturous to other people.”

Next: This meal has too many parts. 

6. Sushi

Takeaway food plastic containers for Sushi, Sashimi and Futomaki rolls

A to-go container of sushi | bluebeat76/ iStock/ Getty Images Plus

Refinery29 learned that according to experts, you probably shouldn’t pick up some sushi in the airport terminal to eat on your flight. The reason why? It requires too much setup, and can’t be packed away quickly if the plane runs into turbulence. You’ll not only have to find somewhere to put the lid to the sushi container, but you’ll also have to keep track of whatever condiments you want to use with your sushi. Many people like to dip their sushi in soy sauce, and those containers can be susceptible to spills.

Next: We can think of lots of reasons to avoid this food. 

7. Burritos

A person holds a burrito

Mexican burrito with chicken, vegetables, pepper, and beans. | BravissimoS/ iStock/ Getty Images Plus

Mashed also offers some advice on which foods you should avoid the next time you fly. And, unsurprisingly, burritos are out. “Burritos make bad plane food for a few reasons,” the publication notes. “Spicy foods can upset your stomach, meat can be hard to digest, and ingredients like beans and onions can cause gas.” You’ll also likely find it difficult to eat a burrito without making a mess.

Next: Definitely don’t pack this food. 

8. Pasta

An airplane meal of chicken, pasta, and vegetables

Airplane food, pasta with chicken and vegetables | RusN/ iStock/ Getty Images Plus

Refinery29 also recommends eating foods that require a knife and a fork the next time you take a flight. One of the first that comes to mind is pasta — especially types, like spaghetti, that most people struggle to eat without making a mess, anyway. Trying to twirl pasta onto your fork without slinging sauce all over yourself or your neighbors sounds like a nightmare. Especially if there’s unexpected turbulence on your flight.

Next: You’ll regret packing this snack. 

9. Cheetos


Cheetos | AbbieImages/ iStock/ Getty Images

It might sound like a good idea to go with packaged snacks if you need some mess-free food for your next flight. But not all packaged foods are safe. Refinery29 reports that one of the messiest foods to eat on a flight is a bag of Cheetos. That orange dust will get everywhere. (All over you, all over the tray table, and possibly onto your neighbor, too.) The same thing probably goes for some flavors of Doritos, as well as other brands of cheese puffs and similar snacks.

Next: This surprising food can make a big mess. 

10. Yogurt

An airline meal that includes yogurt

An airline meal, including yogurt. | Ruben Ramos/ iStock/ Getty Images Plus

Mashed reports on another surprising food you should avoid eating on planes: yogurt. “The plastic containers blow up like balloons once you’re in the air, and I promise you they will explode when you open them,” the publication explains. If you can’t get through a flight without your yogurt, make sure that you peel the foil back extremely slowly. Mashed also advises pointing it away from your neighbors so that you don’t risk covering them in yogurt.

Next: Avoid these foods, too. 

11. Salty foods

A passenger eats stir-fried noodles during a flight

A passenger eats stir-fried noodles during a flight. |

Mashed also reports that you may want to lay off the salty foods the next time you fly. Eating foods with high levels of sodium might be to blame if your feet tend to swell up when you fly. So whether it’s bagels or other baked goods, trail mix or cottage cheese, you’ll want to steer clear of high-sodium foods during your next flight. As for chips? Even putting aside our concerns about the salt, you should save those until after the flight, too. Your seatmates probably don’t want to hear you crunching on them.

Next: Think twice before packing these. 

12. Peanuts and tree nuts

A snack of pretzels and nuts on a plane

A snack of pretzels and nuts on a plane | eurobanks/ iStock/ Getty Images Plus

There’s a reason that airlines no longer serve peanuts as a standard stack mid-flight. While there isn’t much evidence that airborne nut particles can cause a reaction, even in those with a severe allergy, contact with nut proteins can cause itchy eyes, runny noses, and sneezing, The Points Guy reports. And peanut residue on the tray table or the armrests is enough for someone with an allergy to get it on their hands, and then into their mouth, which can cause a reaction. To avoid contaminating the plane — or just making allergic travelers nervous — leave the peanuts and tree nuts at home.

Next: Don’t order one of these at the airport. 

13. Fountain drinks

A passenger holds a cup of soda during a flight

A passenger holds a cup of soda during a flight. | Ruben Ramos/ iStock/ Getty Images

The flight attendants who spoke to Refinery29 also advised that passengers avoid bringing fountain drinks onto the plane. The reason why? They’re pretty unlikely to slosh right out of your cup, onto you or your neighbors, when the plane takes off. Refinery29 notes that drink service is still common on “all but the shortest flights.” So if you want a beverage to enjoy before the flight attendants come around, you should go with a closed container that will be more secure if there’s turbulence or when you need to close your tray table.

Next: Don’t drink this on the plane, either. 

14. Tap water

Happy man seating in the aircraft and drinking water

Man in the aircraft is drinking water |

You should also avoid drinking water from the plane’s onboard water system. (Buy a bottle of water before you board the plane, instead.) Time reports that flight attendants say the water systems are rarely cleaned. The tanks serve as a breeding ground for coliform bacteria, which are found in the waste of humans and animals and are an indicator of the presence of pathogens that can cause illness and even death.

Next: Never ask for these when the beverage cart rolls around. 

15. Hot coffee and tea

A passenger holds a cup of soda during a flight

A passenger drinks a cup of coffee in the window seat. | Zakharova_Natalia/ iStock/ Getty Images

If you want to avoid the tap water from the plane’s water system, then it stands to reason that you shouldn’t ask the flight attendants for a cup of hot coffee or tea. The flight crew brews those beverages using the plane’s tap water. And even though that cup of coffee or tea will be free, the potential contamination probably isn’t worth it. So you’re much safer swinging by a Starbucks or another coffee shop in the airport before you board your flight.

Next: Think twice before ordering one of these. 

16. Alcoholic beverages

A flight attendant hands champagne to a passenger

A flight attendant hands champagne to a passenger. | Image Source/ Digital Vision/ Getty Images

Alcohol is dehydrating. So if you really want to know what drink you should order on your next flight, it’s not an adult beverage. Of course, you could also argue that it’s okay to indulge in moderation. But don’t order too many cocktails. Drinking too much alcohol will impair your judgment. And neither your seatmates nor the flight attendants will be happy with the results.

Next: Definitely don’t try to get away with this. 

17. Alcohol not served by the airline

Image Source/ Digital Vision

Passengers walk past a duty-free shop at Denver International Airport. | Baiterek Media/ iStock Editorial/ Getty Images Plus

If you want an alcoholic beverage when you fly but don’t want to pay the airline’s sky-high prices, it’s tempting to pick up something at the duty-free store to enjoy later. But as flight attendants told Refinery29, it’s only legal to consume alcohol served by the airline. “Either plan on buying a drink on board or having a responsible amount of drinks before boarding if that’s something you’ll want to do during your travels,” the publication advises.

Read more: Hidden Airplane Features You Never Knew Existed

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