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I’ve flown millions of miles on countless flights and airlines all around the world. I’ve seen so much crazy behavior on airplanes that I had to write this post: 10 Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Airplane Habits.
Unfortunately, it seems like the pandemic has made things worse and it seems like passengers are getting ruder and ruder. I just don’t get how people think it’s okay to watch movies, listen to music or talk on the phone on speaker without using headphones on an airplane, as if they’re in their own living room. It’s mind blowing.
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I also can’t comprehend how some people think it’s okay to take care of their personal hygiene on an airplane like clipping their nails, tweezing their eyebrows or giving themselves a manicure. In the past, I would tell the passenger it’s not allowed to apply nail polish on a plane because both nail polish and nail polish remover are highly flammable. But after getting chewed out, now I would just ring the call button so the flight attendant can do the dirty work. They always shut it down immediately.
Unfortunately, it’s happened at least twice in the past week as two incidents made the news.
First, last week, the Daily Mail reported: “An American Airlines flight from Miami to Barbados had to return to the airport after flyers became sick due to an ‘acetone smell.’ AA Flight 338 departed Miami International Airport around 6pm on Wednesday, but had to return due to a strong chemical odor – believed to be nail polish remover – coming from a passenger’s carry-on item. Some passengers reportedly became sick and started vomiting due to the strong smell.”
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Then Yahoo wrote a story about a viral Reddit thread titled: This woman painting her nails on a 3 hour plane journey. There were over 600 comments and the most popular was from Twinkletoes1951: “Happened on a flight I was on; flight attendant came over and shut that down within a minute for degrading the air quality.”
However, what I find even more shocking is that neither nail polish nor nail polish remover are illegal to bring onboard (something I just learned).
Regarding nail polish remover, the TSA’s website says:
Carry On Bags: Yes (Less than or equal to 3.4oz/100 ml allowed)
Checked Bags: Yes
The FAA limits the total amount of restricted medicinal and toiletry articles in checked baggage. The total aggregate quantity per person cannot exceed 2 kg (70 ounces) or 2 L (68 fluid ounces). The capacity of each container must not exceed 0.5 kg (18 ounces) or 500 ml (17 fluid ounces). See the FAA regulations for more information.
Since the TSA recommends checking out the FAA regulations for more information I did just that and this is what the Federal Aviation Administration has to say:
“For personal use including aerosols, hair spray, perfumes, colognes, nail polish, rubbing alcohol, shaving cream, inhalers, medicines. Quantity limits: The total aggregate quantity per person cannot exceed 2 kg (70 ounces) or 2 L (68 fluid ounces). The capacity of each container must not exceed 0.5 kg (18 ounces) or 500 ml (17 fluid ounces).* This exception includes medicinal and toiletry articles in aerosol canisters. Aerosol release devices (button/nozzle) must be protected by caps or other suitable means to prevent accidental release. Tip: If it does not touch your body when you use it, then it likely does not qualify for the medicinal & toiletry article exception. Not all carry-on items may be used during flight. Consult the flight crew before using items that give off strong odors or vapors such as nail polish and remover.”
The FAA says to consult flight crews but I couldn’t find any specific airline policies except this, from an article by my good friend and former SF Gate travel writer, Chris McGinnis: “A United spokesperson told SFGATE, “We don’t have a policy against nail polish. However, as a courtesy, we ask customers to refrain from using it for the comfort of their fellow travelers.”
Southwest’s response was similar: “For the comfort of all our passengers onboard, this practice is frowned upon and the customer will be asked to put away their polish.”
Alaska Airlines says, “Polish isn’t prohibited, but it’s not encouraged given the strong odor.”
At Delta, a spokesperson said that the carrier “does not have a published rule on polish.”
So it sounds like it’s up to the flight crew. Fortunately, any flight I’ve been on where a passenger started applying nail polish, the flight attendants took care of it quickly. PRO TIP: My wife always does a gel manicure before we travel so that her nails are done and she doesn’t have to worry about them on the road. Since a gel manicure generally lasts about 2-3 weeks, it’s a great solution. You can also do your own gel manicure at home for far less than the salon charges with an at-home gel manicure kit like one of these.
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Johnny, this story reminded me of the days when I used to pick up car poolers to go over the Bay Bridge into San Francisco. One day, a woman car pooler started to paint her nails in the car…I couldn’t believe it.