I am curious to know if an airline has a legal right to forcibly remove a senior citizen from an airplane if it is discovered that this person is wearing a soiled adult diaper.

Say for example that when passengers are boarding an airplane, a person who is sitting next to a senior citizen notices a strong foul odor coming from the senior citizen. This person then walks up the aisle and reports this problem to a flight attendant.

Say that the flight attendant then asks the senior citizen if he/she is wearing a soiled adult diaper and senior citizen says yes, so the flight attendant instructs the senior citizen to go to the airplane bathroom to change the adult diaper.

Let's say that the senior citizen replies that he/she doesn't have any more adult diapers and then says that it is very important that they take this flight so they are absolutely not going to depart the airplane despite having a soiled adult diaper.

At this point, can the flight attendant have the senior citizen forcibly removed from the airplane?

As far as I know, an airline would never forcibly remove a mother and her baby from an airplane if her baby had a soiled diaper when they boarded the airplane and the mother did not have any more baby diapers. Yet, I'm not sure what an airline would do, or could do, regarding a senior citizen with a soiled adult diaper.

  • I don't think you're familiar with exactly how soiled a baby could be.
    – Tiger Guy
    Commented Nov 28, 2021 at 18:12
  • 1
    Does them being old matter? Commented Nov 28, 2021 at 19:09
  • @TigerGuy, actually, I have changed many baby diapers over the years so I know that some babies can produce a lot of 'stuff' in their diaper, and also that some baby's 'stuff' can smell a worse than other babies 'stuff'.
    – user57467
    Commented Nov 28, 2021 at 20:39
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    @AzorAhai-him-, well, not really, it's just that most people who wear adult diapers are likely to be senior citizens.
    – user57467
    Commented Nov 28, 2021 at 20:40

1 Answer 1


It depends on what the Contract of Carriage says. Delta Airlines, for US contracts, says under rule 7 that

Delta may refuse to transport any passenger, and may remove any passenger from its aircraft at any time, for any of the following reasons:... (E) Passenger’s Conduct or Condition

Delta may refuse to transport any passenger, or may remove any passenger from its aircraft, when refusal to transport or removal of the passenger is reasonably necessary in Delta’s sole discretion for the passenger’s comfort or safety, for the comfort or safety of other passengers or Delta employees, or for the prevention of damage to the property of Delta or its passengers or employees

and gives as an example

  1. When the passenger’s conduct, attire, hygiene or odor creates an unreasonable risk of offense or annoyance to other passengers.

So yes. It is unlikely that an airline lacks any such condition, but you would have to look at all of the airlines and all of the countries where airlines operate to be absolutely positive, so I will say that that can refuse to carry the passenger. In your case, the passenger is not a Person with a Disability as defined under 14 CFR 382.5 and 382.31, but you might construct a disability-related scenario that gets a different answer.

  • 2
    Purely anecdotal, but in support of your answer, I have been on more than one US domestic, commercial flight where one or more people in fact were removed for odor of one sort or another. Generally, they were taken inside, helped to clean up and find other clothes (perhaps from their bags), and sent on the next flight an hour or two later.
    – nexus_2006
    Commented Nov 28, 2021 at 21:15
  • And in general, most people are civilized enough to understand that they have an odor problem and will try to resolve it. If they decide to escalate, then that's going to only have them kicked off the flight even faster.
    – Nelson
    Commented Nov 29, 2021 at 3:14

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