Is Clipping Nails Aboard an Airplane Considered Disgusting?

“I think it’s a little different on an airplane, especially on a very long flight, where you’re kind of confined. I don’t do extensive manicuring but if I have a ragged nail or hangnail I’ll snip it off discreetly. Either that or you can watch me chew on it for a long time. I certainly don’t clip a nail or comb my hair while food is on the trays, but if everyone had to retire to the lavatory to do these minor chores they would be even more crowded than they are! The close confines of airplane seats require us to put up with people’s daily activities more than we would probably like – such as listening to personal conversations, hearing people snore, etc. But I don’t think we need to call all of it ‘disgusting’.”

This is the response posted by FlyerTalk member NotSoFrequentColorado — who does not know why so many people think clipping fingernails is disgusting — after FlyerTalk member Calchas asked “Do you clip your nails at a restaurant, at a bar or at your office?”, concluding that “An aircraft is a public space”.

Is Clipping Nails Aboard an Airplane Disgusting?

“Nails and hair are the same thing”, reasoned NotSoFrequentColorado. “Hair can fly too, if you comb it. Is combing hair disgusting too?”

Essentially, that statement is true. Both nails and hair are comprised of dead cells as well as a fibrous structural protein called keratin; but keratin is also the key structural material of which your epidermis — or outer layer of your skin — is comprised…

…and although it probably happens countless times every day, I am certain that most people would not think that skin flakes falling into their food would be considered appetizing — let alone strands of hair or clippings of nails.

There are reasons why health codes in many areas require the use of hair nets — such as in the state of Minnesota, for example — and gloves during the preparation of food at restaurants and other dining establishments.

Other than when food and beverages are served aboard an airplane during a flight, the interior of an airplane is not considered a dining establishment — but does any passenger really want the possibility of the hair or nail residue from someone else to pervade in their personal space?


If it is at all possible, personal grooming should be done in privacy and not at a seat in an airplane. Take care of it either before or after the flight; or repair to the lavatory if necessary during a flight. Unless it is considered an emergency of sorts, the personal grooming can wait. This includes the combing and brushing of hair; the clipping of fingernails and toenails; the polishing of fingernails and toenails; the brushing of teeth…

…and especially the clearing of nasal passages and residue between teeth. Subjecting passengers to possible unidentified flying objects is downright disgusting — let alone rude — in my opinion.

Photograph ©2016 by Brian Cohen.

8 thoughts on “Is Clipping Nails Aboard an Airplane Considered Disgusting?”

  1. Carl says:

    If someone thinks it is ok to clip nails and such on the airplane, they are VERY welcome to NOT do so next to me or they will then need to clear out a blast of words from me flying into their ear. YUCK!

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      I would almost pay to see that, Carl.

  2. RaflW says:

    Yeah, I’m not buying the “if everyone had to retire to the lavatory to do these minor chores” thing. If you have a nail emergency, go to the lav (and take care of other typical lav business at the same time). Simple multitasking!

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      You do realize that if everyone aboard an airplane had to go to the lavatory to urinate, RaflW, they would be really crowded.

      In all seriousness, I completely agree.

  3. Frank says:

    Phew! I’m sure glad that this column was about clipping fingernails and not toenails! After a bozo in a seat behind me on a TATL “steerage class” flight put his feet on my armrest, nothing would surprise me. How about separate designated airline seating for the “truly classless”?

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      You would think some people would have basic standards to which they would adhere while passengers aboard an airplane, Frank.

      Alas, in some cases…no.

  4. Captain Kirk says:

    It is gross. That is a matter of personal hygiene, and should not be done in public. If you ever want a good laugh, check out “Passenger Shaming” on facebook. Tons of pictures aboard airplanes of absolutely disgusting behavior. Nail clipping, putting feet all over things, people with grungy hair over the back of their headrest blocking your tv screen, post flight floor pictures with food and trash all over the plane, you name it.

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