If you are an experienced traveler you likely know many of the ins and outs of flying. While you might consider yourself an expert in the field (or, may we say, airfield) there are many aspects of air travel that only airport and airline insiders know. For all those curious passengers who’ve wondered just how clean or safe planes are, you’ve come to the right place. Want to know about the hush-hush romantic lives of flight attendants? Well, keep reading. Although much of this information still mostly flies under the radar, we’ve uncovered some of the best-kept flight secrets that you NEED to know before you next pack your bags. Safe travels!
1. The Truth About Mobile Devices
No, the plane isn’t going to go down if you accidentally leave your phone on. However, the likelihood is you won’t be the only one who forgot (or intentionally dismissed the crew’s instructions). There are actually two reasons passengers are urged to stow their portable electronic devices.
Although cellular signals are unlikely to seriously interrupt vital equipment communication, they can interfere with air traffic control frequencies, which is particularly annoying during take-off and landing. Also, electronic gadgets can become flying projectiles if they aren’t secured. Seriously, who wants a flying laptop hitting them in the head?
2. What are the Secrets Behind Upgrades?
Upgrades are the coveted jackpot prize of the air travel world. If you aren’t a frequent flier, first of all, it helps if you’re not a rude slob. It will definitely work in your favor if you’re very nice, attractive, extremely tall, pregnant, well dressed or a friend of the flight crew.
According to an anonymous flight attendant, there’s a little-known possibility to get an upgrade to business or first class even after the cabin doors close. It doesn’t occur very often, however, because the crew has to file a report on the move. It also depends on meal and seating availability.
3. The Devil in Diet Coke
Flight attendants hate it when passengers order Diet Coke as the beverage cart goes around. The extremely carbonated fizz in Diet Coke takes forever to settle at a cruising altitude of 35,000 feet and takes the most time out of all the beverages to pour.
According to flight attendant accounts, paying attention not to overflow a cup full of Diet Coke means it takes about three times as long to pour the soft drink from the can as it does for other drinks. Don’t fret, they’ll still serve you even if they’re bubbling with frustration.
4. Are Crew Members Allowed to Date Passengers?
This might come as a shocker these days, but many big-name airlines don’t have a policy against flight attendants fraternizing with passengers. Although flight attendants are often fighting off unwanted attention, they are also free to meet a potential partner if they so choose.
The “Coffee, Tea or Me?” era is long gone, but flight attendants seek love just like the rest of us. That being said, of course, their professional duties are the priority. But there are plenty of stories about flight attendants who have met romantic interests through their line of work.
5. Just How Unhealthy is Airplane Food?
We’ve all asked ourselves if those pre-packaged bundles provided for in-flight meals are made of natural ingredients, or if they’re more like the processed (somewhat) edible substances astronauts eat. The lack of an ingredient list might be for the best though. It’s been said ignorance is bliss…
Well, it turns out these mid-flight morsels have basically zero nutritional value as they are loaded with salt, sugar, fat and simple carbs. Our recommendation: load up on snacks before you board, especially if you’re health conscious or a frequent flyer.
6. The Truth About Air Marshals
Just like Melissa McCarthy’s character in “Bridesmaids,” you’ll probably never know where an air marshal keeps their gun. Then again, you probably never even be able to recognize who the air marshal on your flight is (if there is one).
Although air marshals largely fly incognito, their presence has been bolstered since 9/11. In the US, these covert law enforcement officials who protect against onboard criminal and terrorist activity aren’t necessarily on every single trip. Airlines in other countries (Israel’s flagship airline, El Al, for example) do.
Don’t miss the coming flight secrets that are bound to completely surprise you!
7. What the Crew is Really Doing While Greeting Passengers
You may think the greeting by the flight crew upon entering the aircraft is a polite formality, but really there’s a lot more to it than that. Of course, the practice is intended to make passengers feel welcome and comfortable, but it’s also used by the crew as an assessment.
The flight staff uses this time to eye passengers who may become problematic or others who could be helpful during an emergency. Apart from reading passengers’ attitudes, they look for people who are intoxicated, physically fit, physically disabled, traveling alone or in a group and those who speak (at least enough) English.
8. How Sturdy are Airplanes?
Ever wondered just how thoroughly airplanes are checked before they take off? Well, there is a very extensive list of constraints that need to be checked before a flight. However, there’s a threshold for minor failures that can go unattended to avoid delays. Don’t worry, though, these aren’t supposed to affect safety provisions.
In terms of in-flight safety, planes can handle thunderstorms and often even get struck by lightning without causing damage. Pilots are usually aware of weather before take-off. But buckle up as most turbulence-related injuries happen to those who don’t have their seat belt fastened or when unsecured items go flying across the cabin.
9. What’s it Worth to be a Flight Attendant?
It may sound glamorous to be able to travel the world (or nation) as your job. The truth is flight attendants have a hectic schedule and are constantly busy, and they are only paid once the main cabin doors are shut or once the flight is airborne.
That means delays and cancellations are just as annoying, if not more, for them as they don’t necessarily get paid if the plane doesn’t leave the gate. Different airlines have different policies on payment but still, think about that the next time you’re impatiently sitting on the tarmac.
10. What’s Up with the Brace Position Myth?
According to commercial aviation safety procedures, passengers are told to adopt a position to brace themselves for impact. Conspiracies about the position being a means of facilitating a quicker death have floated around for years, but experts say it’s a myth.
The position is meant to compact the body and protect vitals from injury. The position also facilitates force of a crash to channel into the chair in front of you, instead of through the body. If you don’t believe us, check out “MythBusters.”
11. Will Your Overweight Suitcase Bring Down the Plane?
It’s annoying to get slammed with additional fees for overweight or additional luggage, but the truth of the matter is that a few extra pounds aren’t going to bring the plane down. Most planes are designed to transport at least one stowed bag per passenger.
In order to maintain this weight balance to have the right center of gravity for takeoff, the airline industry has employed a longtime practice of loading (in some cases, even up to 600 pounds of) sandbags into the cargo hold to even out the weight.
12. What Happens if There’s a Medical Emergency on a Plane?
Flight attendants are trained to act as first responders to a medical emergency on a plane. They can administer CPR and perform the Heimlich maneuver. All planes are equipped with first aid kits and those carrying more than 30 passengers have defibrillators.
Most times, the cabin crew will page the passengers to see if there’s a doctor onboard. In grave situations, a pilot can decide to divert and ground the plane. This usually takes about 15 minutes on domestic flights but can be more difficult on overseas trips.
Scroll on to the next page that will make you think again about your travel companions.
13. Just How Cozy Should You Get?
Travelling in a cramped cabin with pressurized air and tons of strangers is usually not a pleasurable experience. Although those ubiquitously popular neck pillows have done wonders for our relative comfort, there one thing you should NEVER do in your attempt to get cozy.
You might want to get up every now and then to stretch your legs out, and that’s fine. Just remember to keep your shoes and socks on. Traipsing around barefoot on a plane is arguably one of the grossest things to do while traveling. People have “accidents” and injuries, and in-flight cleaning resources are limited.
14. Why it’s Worth it to be Nice
Being polite to your flight attendant is definitely an appreciated behavior. Think, how would you feel if you were running from flight to flight without many naps and had to ensure the safety and comfort of hundreds of passengers every day.
Making a good impression on a flight attendant can make an impact when it comes to getting in the running for a better seat. That being said, rude or unruly behavior could land you a spot smack dab in the middle of a bunch of babies and children. Hint: these little people cry…A LOT!
15. How Clean is the Water?
As a rule thumb, you should NEVER drink water from the lavatory tap on airplanes. But the potable water used in coffee and tea is safe to stomach, right? Well…according to the account of many flight attendants, it sounds like it’s best to stick to the bottled beverages and get your caffeine fix on the ground.
Although the tanks for those drinks are cleaned, there still remains the question of how often those custodial tasks are performed. Apparently, the answer is not as often as you would think, and the valve for cleaning lavatory waste is pretty close to the one for filling clean water. That’s a bummer for those long, international trips.
16. The Reality of a Flight Attendant’s Lifestyle
Maybe you have an idea from Gwyneth Paltrow’s movie “View from the Top.” There are plenty of romanticized visions about the glamor of being part of a flight crew. But, that’s not generally what it’s like for flight attendants. Being a flight attendant is vastly different from a 9-to-5 job.
The hours are demanding, not to mention the constant jet lag and time spent away from loved ones. There are a lot of 4 a.m. wake up calls and weekend, night and holiday hours. In addition, seniority dictates the when and where flight attendants fly.
17. How Much Power Does the Pilot Have?
Basically, a lot. The pilot has ultimate authority on a plane, including command decisions, leading the crew, handling emergencies and troublesome passengers. Despite the urban legend, the captain cannot make arrests mid-flight. However, in emergencies, they can contact authorities who will meet the plane once it lands and arrest the problematic person.
Although they cannot make arrests in the legal sense, a commercial pilot can give orders to place someone in handcuffs or restraints in-air if they are deemed to be endangering the safety of the flight. Did you know, pilots can even take a dying passenger’s will?
The next airplane secret will probably change your travel habits, keep reading!
18. How Clean are Planes, Really?
Maybe it’s better not to ask this one. You’ve likely seen turnover crews vacuuming and emptying trash from the cabin, but what about those tray tables, armrests and windows? It’s probably best if you just bring disinfectant wipes with you, to tell the truth.
The quick turnover between flights means airplanes don’t go through deep cleans as often as you might hope. The FAA isn’t in charge of the frequency or thoroughness of plane cleanliness, meaning the airlines can make their own decisions on the matter.
19. What Does the Crew Eat?
In general, those in the cockpit don’t eat the same meal (or share food) while they are on the job. It might seem arbitrary, but the guideline is intended to prevent food poisoning. When you think about it, it’s probably best that those flying a plane aren’t constantly running to the restroom.
On international hauls there are crew meals, but not on domestic flights. Depending on the airline and the pilot’s discrepancy, the pilot gets the first class meal while the co-pilot receive a business class meal. Nonetheless, many members of the flight crew opt to bring their own rations for the journey.
20. What Happens to Unused Food After a Flight?
This decision is up to every airline, but in general, it’s thrown in the dump. We already have enough questions about the food, so it’s probably best to know that this is its fate. Most airplane grub is mass produced by airline-contracted catering services.
One travel catering expert has said that although these provisions claim to be freshly prepared, the majority of plane food is prepared between 12 and 72 hours ahead of time and can be chilled for up to five days according to international standards.
21. What is Proper Passenger Etiquette?
Flight attendants are not there to be babysitters or wait staff. Although part of their job is to serve food and beverages, their responsibilities are much more expansive. The flight staff is trained to do CPR, use EpiPens, AEDs and defibrillators. Also, don’t call them “stewardesses” anymore.
They are also trained in self-defense and how to handle a situation in which there is an unruly passenger, emergency evacuation or attempted hijacking. One of their main duties is to guard the holy grail of the plane, the cockpit, to keep anyone who shouldn’t from entering during the flight.
22. How Safe is it to Fly?
No matter the length of a trip, the most dangerous part of any flight is take-off and landing. Control of the plane is basically completely in the hand of the pilots during those times. That margin for human error means those periods are most prone to problems.
Statistically speaking, however, it is much safer to fly than to drive. According to US government research, the odds of being in a fatal motor vehicle accident is 1 in 98, while the odd for being in an air crash catastrophe is 1 in 7,178 in a lifetime.
There are more surprising facts to come about the world of commercial aviation, keep reading!
23. Can the Flight Crew Sleep on Flights?
The flight crew has a grueling schedule and doesn’t have the luxury of dozing off the minute they reach their seats like the rest of us do. However, on long-haul flights, there’s a special sleeping cabin for the staff. Most Boeing 777 and 787 jets have these windowless sleeping quarters.
These sleeping pods are usually above or below the galley. Pilots also get to snooze on longer flights and are assigned rest periods during which their co-pilot mans the controls. The pilots’ sleeping berth is usually located in its own separate compartment.
24. How Drunk Can You Get on a Flight?
Those mini bottles of alcohol on airplanes may be enticing, but don’t overdo it. A flight attendant can, and will, cut you off if you’re getting a little too buzzed. It’s actually illegal to be intoxicated on a plane and it’s illegal for flight attendants to enable passengers to get drunk.
You can get up to a two-year sentence for the criminal offense of being drunk on an airplane. If that puts a damper on your travel fun, just remember: the changing cabin pressure means each glass of alcohol will affect you more than it would on land.
25. What Exactly is in the Baggage Compartment?
If you’re one of those people who watch the luggage get loaded into the plane’s cargo hold, you may have noticed some odd-shaped containers. Truth be told, it’s not just passenger baggage that’s transported in the underbelly of commercial airliners.
Among the freight that gets shipped on planes are human remains (or “HR” on the radios). That may sound disconcerting, but when people die abroad, their remains need to be repatriated. You wouldn’t necessarily know this was the case unless you spotted a particularly-shaped wood-framed box.
26. Why are Lights the Dimmed Before Landing?
It may seem like an atmospheric gimmick, but the cabin lights in commercial flights are actually dimmed at night for take-off and landing for a more serious reason. Hint: it has to do with the fact that those are the times when a flight is most prone to problems.
The real reason for the darkened cabin is to allow the eyes to adjust to the lack of light in case of an emergency. The emergency path-lighting and lit signs also become more visible in this situation. This can all help with orientation in each valuable minute of an evacuation or accident.
27. Is Plane Air Safe to Breathe?
The thought of contracting airborne viruses is something we’d perhaps prefer to ignore while traveling by plane. However, questions about the effectiveness of cabin ventilation systems are definitely something we’ve all wondered about amid the coughs and sneezes in the cramped enclosure.
Despite the rare horror stories, it turns out that plane air is relatively clean. What you are breathing, though, is air from the engine’s compressors (not the engine’s exhaust). What’s known as the “bleed air” system combines recirculated and fresh breathable air. Basically, it’s pretty akin to the air found in an average office.
28. Can a Plane Fly Without an Engine?
You betcha! Although you probably wouldn’t notice if it were to happen… Though it is extremely rare for a plane to experience engine failure, present-day passenger jets are (thankfully!) equipped to continue flying safely even if one engine isn’t working.
Even if both engines fail, a plane can glide approximately 1.5 nautical miles for every 1,000 feet of altitude (typical commercial jets cruises at about 30,000 feet). Rest assured, pilots are trained on how to make planes glide as far as possible, although you’d probably never know if it was happening.
29. How Clean Are In-Flight Blankets and Pillows?
Maybe they’re not as bad as the tray tables – which have been found to be the dirtiest part of planes – but those courtesy blankets, pillows and even headphones aren’t really very fresh. Although they are repackaged with plastic wrap, airplane amenities aren’t usually new.
For the most part, they don’t even get washed. In coach class, you’re more likely to find fresh blankets on early morning flights. But, they generally just get stuffed back in the bins and folded between flights before they’re passed on to the next passengers.
30. What Is It Like for Pets to Fly?
For years, a debate has raged over the best way to travel on planes with pets. While flying is undoubtedly stressful for animals, and their owners, here’s what even the best trained, most prepared pet owners should know before packing up their pup…
One aircraft fueler took to Reddit to give some words of advice. While the fueler explained that in most cases, the airline will attempt to handle pet travel as best as possible, factors like noise on the ramp can’t be avoided.
There are more shocking facts about airplane travel where that came from, read on!
31. Why are Flights so Expensive?
Hopeful passengers are used to moaning and groaning over what seem to be ever-inflating flight costs. It seems there is a ridiculous fee for everything these days. In fact, a plane has to fly at 85% capacity for the airline to make a meager profit off of a ticket.
The majority of airline profits come from baggage fees, seat fees and any other cost they can tack on. Given the fact that airplanes need a certain amount of passengers to make money and that people often miss flights for various reasons, flights are often overbooked.
32. Is There a Certain ‘Look’ for Flight Attendants?
While antiquated airline rules regulated a rigid set of criteria when it came to the age, weight and personal grooming of flight attendants, most flight staff are not pursuant to such strict (and if we may say, sexist) standards anymore.
Although there is an emphasis on appearance and professional presentation, most airlines have lightened up on the outdated restrictions of the past. Many airlines do have height parameters, though, to ensure that their employees can comfortably move about the cabin to perform their duties.
33. How Long do the Oxygen Masks Last?
You’ve likely heard the precautionary speech about oxygen masks so many times you could recite it by now. Although it’s rare that a plane would find itself in a situation that would necessitate the use of those drop-down masks, you might have wondered how long they actually work.
As it turns out, the masks usually supply about 15 minutes worth of oxygen. That may not sound like a lot but take a deep breath. During that time, the pilot is fervently working to descend to an altitude that will equalize the cabin pressure and make it easier to breathe.
34. How Common are Relationships Between Crew Members?
In short, the answer is very. Although it may sound stereotypical, there are cases of pilots and flight attendants, and flight attendants and flight attendants hooking up. The long and difficult hours spent working in close proximity to these people makes it easier to relate to one another.
Some couples that are already in relationships even chose to fly together. We’ve all seen the movies where the hunky pilot and good looking flight attendant get together in the hotel during the layover. Even though that’s less common these days as it was in, say, the 60s, it’s still possible.
Don’t miss the last couple of pages that answer the plane questions you always wondered about.
35. Does the Flight Crew Have a Secret Communication Code?
Airplane crews have a lot of responsibilities and sometimes they need to communicate certain things without the passengers knowing. As it turns out, there are subtle codes used to indicate what’s going on. While it seems there are infinite chimes and beeps during a flight, there are specific functions for those noises that aren’t just the call button.
According to insiders, the “dings” that sound during the first and last legs of a flight single to the crew that the most dangerous stages are over. There are other bells for an emergency, severe turbulence or when someone tries to get into the cockpit.
36. Does a Cheaper Ticket Mean a Less Safe Flight?
If you’ve ever wondered whether flying on a budget airline or purchasing discount tickets inevitably means you taking a gamble on safety, there’s no need to fret. There are a lot of elements considered in the complex system of ticket pricing.
Airlines can customize certain aspects such as leg room amenities, seat selection and baggage fees to cut corners in ticket costs. However, they can’t compromise safety constraints. In fact, given the newness of many budget airline fleets, those aircraft could be safer.
37. Where’s the Safest Place to Sit on a Plane?
According to statistical studies of aircraft crashes, seats in the rear of a plane have the highest rates of survival. Various analysis of crash data indicates that the rear third of the plane holds a somewhat higher survival rate compared to the middle or front thirds.
Of course, chances for survival are increased with a fastened seat belt, aisle seat or seat near an exit. While fatal plane crashes are extremely rare, survival rates vastly depend on the circumstances of the accident more than seating. Luckily, according to US government analysis, the majority of airplane accidents are survivable.
38. How Often is Autopilot Used?
Don’t freak out, but the chances that a computer is flying your plane are actually very high. Well, at least for the majority of the trip. According to standard procedure, pilots activate autopilot for about 90% of most commercial flights.
While a human touch is needed for take-off, landing and taxing to the gate, the autopilot system is engaged for most of the cruising period. That doesn’t mean the cockpit crew is sitting around bored, but autopilot frees them to focus on tasks such as navigation and systems and communication operation.
39. When is the Best Time to Fly?
Flight crews are the ultimate frequent fliers. Therefore, it’s no surprise that they have some tips on choosing the best time of day to fly. We’ll give you the bad news first: you’ll have to set your alarm clock early. Good news: you’ll be more likely to avoid inclement weather.
Although nothing is guaranteed, insiders say there is less of a likelihood of turbulence on morning flights as air is less bumpy earlier in the day. Those AM journeys are also less likely to run into thunderstorms. Don’t worry, you can always nap during the smooth ride.
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