This story gives me some pause.
On May 29, 2018, a Transavia flight from Las Palmas to Amsterdam diverted to Faro after the odor of one passenger caused those around him to vomit and faint. Not surprisingly, an endless number of media outlets picked up the story, because it’s one of those travel stories that at first glance will make most people laugh. There are so many horrible airline stories nowadays, so it’s only natural for people to want to find humor in travel.
But that’s not the end of the story. As it turns out, this wasn’t a guy who was passing gas because he had no respect for the people seated around him, or someone who decided to bring a five course Mexican meal on the plane.
Rather the guy who was offloaded was a 58 year old Russian art-rock guitarist. He was eventually taken to the hospital, and it was discovered that the smell was caused by necrosis, a form of cell injury resulting from the premature death of cells in living tissue by autolysis.
He stayed in the intensive care unit and underwent surgery, and passed away this past Monday, June 25, 2018. Before passing away he wrote the following on Facebook:
“The tragic and comic component of this whole situation is that I caught a disease, which (let’s not say how and why) makes a person quite stinky. As a result, a group of passengers may demand the captain for you to be removed from the plane.”
While I hadn’t written about this exact story because something seemed odd about it to me, it has made me realize that in general I need to hold myself to a higher standard when it comes to the viral travel stories I write about. It goes without saying that there’s a reason so many sites pick up stories like this — it seems interesting/amusing, and it makes a great headline, and therefore is easy pageviews (that’s the truth, regardless of whether most others want to admit it or not).
Now that we have all the details, obviously there’s nothing funny about this story, and many others like it. The only reason they make great headlines and stories is because we have very few details about what happened, and therefore can come up with funny conclusions in our heads. In the future I’m going to take more care when it comes to sharing viral stories like this. I’m not promising that I’ll never write one again, but I’ve been trying to (and will continue to) use better judgment.
For example, on Monday a video went viral of a lady going nuts on a Spirit Airlines flight. She was running up and down the aisle yelling some crazy stuff. When I saw that, I couldn’t help but be sad and feel like the lady clearly needed help. To me that’s not something we should all laugh at. Similarly, I don’t think most media outlets would have written about this “smelly” story if they knew the full circumstances, at least not in the way they did. There’s obviously nothing funny about someone dying due to a rare disease.
I’m curious how you guys feel about this. Where do you think the line is when it comes to writing about these airline stories?
(Tip of the hat to @MeenzMev, featured image courtesy of Alf van Beem)