- It may seem like there’s been an uptick in gross flight experiences, but the incidents aren’t new.
- The summer has seen passengers shocked by blood and feces in plane carpets and vomit on seats.
- In 1975, though, 197 people onboard a flight got food poisoning at once.
In-flight disasters are flooding headlines these days as the post-pandemic era prompts a mass return to travel.
In recent months, an Air France passenger said the floor in front of him was soaked in blood and feces; two Air Canada passengers found their seats covered in vomit; and one man was subjected to another passenger’s “smelly feet.”
And of course, there is the case of the now-viral “diarrhea flight,” which saw a Delta plane forced to turn around halfway through its transatlantic journey after a passenger experienced a medical issue that made them sick throughout the cabin.
But mile-high icks are, in reality, nothing new. Gross-out incidents have been a risk of air travel for decades.
One of the worst happened in 1975 when almost 200 people onboard a Japan Air Lines flight got severely sick in a case of mass food poisoning.
More than half the passengers onboard a February 3, 1975, flight from Anchorage, Alaska, to Copenhagen, Denmark, were seized by a gastrointestinal illness and symptoms of nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea, according to a 1975 study in the medical journal The Lancet.
Chaos broke out soon after a ham and omelet breakfast was served to passengers onboard the plane. The outbreak is believed to have been caused by Staphylococcus aureus bacteria that was spread by a cook’s blistered fingers as he prepared the Danish canned ham, The New York Times reported at the time.
Eighty-six percent of people who ate the meals prepared in some way by the cook became severely ill, according to The Lancet, affecting 197 people in total. One hundred and forty-four affected passengers had to be hospitalized when the plane landed.
A spokesman for Japan Air Lines told The Times in 1975 that the food had been prepared by a catering company that is partly owned by the airline.
In response to the incident, the medical journal recommended cockpit members forgo eating the same meals as one another, lest an entire flight crew become ill.
The story turned tragic when an executive at the catering company that had prepared the meals died by suicide days after the incident.
The nightmare flight lives on in infamy today as a reminder that no era has a monopoly on disgusting in-flight experiences.