Something Stinks at American Airlines


| 1/9/2008 5:04:14 PM


Tags: Buddhist, monk, airline, body odor, discrimination,

On October 30, Soy Seng, head monk for the Cambodian Buddhist Society of Wisconsin, left his small Khmer community for Cambodia to raise funds for a new school, never suspecting that American Airlines would make a stink about his trip. As Bill Lueders reports in the Madison, Wisconsin, alt-weekly, Isthmus, before Seng’s connection could leave for Los Angeles, an American Airlines employee asked him to return to the terminal. The reason? Seng says he was told that a passenger complained about his unpleasant odor.

The airline put up Seng for the night in a hotel, gave him $15 to cover two meals, and allowed him to fly out the next day. By then, Seng had missed his connection to Cambodia and had to spend the night in the Los Angeles airport. Leuder writes that American Airlines did not respond to repeated requests for information.

Jason Ericson

frank r.
1/16/2008 11:09:32 AM

I disagree. I think this has everything to do with Seng being a monk. "You stink. Get off this plane." That's an exceptionally audacious thing for American Airlines to allow an employee to carry out and goes beyond the simple inconveniences we expect with air travel. We all deal with the likes of security checks and overbooked flights, but I don't think they'd do this to a white guy in a business suit - I don't care how smelly he was. He'd get the benefit of the doubt. And remember this isn't even about Seng's smell! Symbols of power, like male gender, white skin and business suits, are protected and given preference, while people outside of that ring of privilege (read: harmless) are regularly subjected to all kinds of indignities, embarrassment, discrimination and physical harm.


rick raab-faber_1
1/14/2008 1:11:12 PM

I've had it up to here (I'm holding my hand above my head) with the airline industry and air travel in general. There is absolutely nothing pleasant about anything involved with it. From "security" checkpoints to overbooked flights to surly flight crews, air travel runs a close second to root canals in the list of things I don't want to do. I believe that it's time the industry takes a page from the movie 'Alien' and just puts us in individual pods and put us to sleep for the trip. At journey's end, our loved ones could pick us (and our pods) up at baggage claim or, for those traveling with carry-on only, at curbside. There's nothing surprising about Soy Seng's experience and I'm sure it has nothing to do with being a Buddhist monk. It's just the state of air travel in the modern world.


stewart s.
1/13/2008 7:35:28 AM

Fifteen bucks!?! For two meals? Those cheap skates. Not to mention the guy missed a whole other day and night wandering the L.A. airport. Airport food is not cheap, I'll tell you that much.