This may not be the right forum for this question, but I almost always experience temporary nausea when entering the cabin of a larger passenger plane (e.g. A320). It hits me as soon as I enter the cabin and can be quite debilitating. Strangely enough it tends to dissipate almost completely after about 5 minutes inside the cabin.

Does anyone know what might be causing this? My only thought is that is has to do with the air inside the cabin as even the smell of the cabin when boarding (but still on the boarding ramp) causes the nausea to occur.

Additionally, I'm open to any suggestions for how to reduce this effect... I fly quite often and have learned to put it up with this sensation but I would greatly appreciate not having to go through this anymore.

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    $\begingroup$ It sound psychosomatic in nature. $\endgroup$ – Carlo Felicione May 6 '18 at 19:05
  • $\begingroup$ Did you by chance smell something that smells like dirty feet when boarding the aircraft. If so this could be the engine oil entering the bleed system of the engine and into the cabin. There have been issues with these fumes incapacitating crew members. There has been a lot of talk about this on the Aviation Herald even today. $\endgroup$ – DLH May 8 '18 at 21:24
  • $\begingroup$ @DLH I wouldn't describe the smell as dirty feet but it does smell like exhaust almost. this smell has been exactly the same for every flight I've ever been on (300+ flights) $\endgroup$ – codedude May 9 '18 at 1:03

There are a few things that could be causing it but chances are its not the aircraft. When on the ground, with the engines off, aircraft simply have exterior air circulating through them. In the hot weather they are often connected to an external AC unit similarly in the cold weather they are connected to a heater. Cabin smells tend to vary widely and I cant find any data other than anecdotal evidence about how they are controlled and if they are quantified.

Once the engines have started they can use bleed air but if your symptoms are calm after 5 minutes its likely they are still using ground fed air at that point.

You may be experiencing light symptoms of Claustrophobia upon knowing you are entering a small, enclosed space. Some evidence points to the fact this can be cured with repeated exposure so the more you fly you may notice the effects reduced.

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  • $\begingroup$ I would hesitate to call it claustrophobia. I've flown probably 300+ times in my life and never really felt cramped and claustrophobic. If it helps at all the smell reminds me of exhaust almost. It's been the same smell across all aircraft that's triggered this nausea. $\endgroup$ – codedude May 9 '18 at 1:05

On A320 and most of the airlines (exception for B787 and A350), the air conditioning is taking is air from the bleed system (ATA 36), which is furnish either by the APU, the engines or a ground system. When you are at the gate, only the ground system or the APU is providing air, but it may occurs that some residue of engine oil are inside the system and it can smell weird. Also, if the aircraft is old, the air conditioning system is really difficult to clean, so you will have that smelly air like in old house. For the nausea point of view, it will depend of the person. I know there is some trials against Airbus and Boeing on that subject, it may be the case, but so far nothing has been decided.

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  • $\begingroup$ From what it smells like, it could very well be engine oil. Its just odd that it's been the exact same smell across all aircraft for as long as I can remember. $\endgroup$ – codedude May 9 '18 at 1:06

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