Flying has brought about a revolution in the way people travel. What used to be a risky and costly endeavor has become a normal means of transportation today. And it’s no surprise because who would really prefer driving for days or weeks when you can now simply fly your way to your intended location in just a few hours?
But did you know that a hundred years after aviation was introduced, many aspects of plane travel still remain a mystery to the majority today? Well, that’s because there are things airlines do not really disclose openly. Of course, there are many things that regular passengers aren’t privy to, but here are the juiciest air travel secrets you need to know that flight attendants do not tell you.
Those tiny holes in select aircraft windows are for your safety.
If you ever gaze out of your window during your flight and you spot a tiny hole towards the bottom, there’s no reason to be alarmed. That wouldn’t cause the plane to crash. In fact, it’s there to help keep the plane intact.
Called ‘bleed’ or ‘breather’ holes, the openings are designed to help with the air pressure inside the plane cabin. At a cruising altitude of 35,000 feet, the air pressure is so low that anyone would pass out if they were exposed to it, so a plane’s cabin must be pressurized to be able to breathe. Good for us passengers, yes, but not for the aircraft. Enter the mysterious window holes, the only way to release some of the strain pressure puts on the plane.
Another of its function? It also keeps the window fog-free so you can enjoy the view of the scenery below.
What are flight attendants for?
They may look like they’re simply air waitresses, but there’s really more to being a flight attendant than just that. Business Insider says one of the main purposes of deploying them aboard the plane is because they are the ones announcing whether or not the plane is about to crash.
“The captain will give you the same information that we know if there is time and then we will begin emergency landing procedures,” the anonymous flight attendant said. “My job is to make sure we all get out alive, so of course I would want you to be as prepared as possible.”
They are also there in case of medical emergencies. Flight attendants are actually trained to do CPR, use a defibrillator, and deliver a baby, among others. So the next time they smile at you, know that there is a lot more going on behind the scenes that you’d hope they’ll never need to do.
They dim the lights during takeoff and landing for evacuation.
If you thought its just to urge you to put your book or phone down, you’re wrong. The cabin lights are dimmed so your eyes are adjusted to the dark in case you need to find a way out.
“Imagine being in an unfamiliar bright room filled with obstacles when someone turns off the lights and asks you to exit quickly,” Chris Cooke, a pilot with a major domestic carrier, told Independent.
And in a true crisis—if the plane is filled with smoke or the power goes out—it’s easier to see the emergency lights in the aisle and the exit signs in a darker cabin. Safety during emergencies is also the reason why flight attendants ask you to put up tray tables and seats at takeoff and landing; so the person sitting by the window can get out quickly.
Not turning your phone off or putting it in flight mode can really cause a crash.
This is a plea we hear at the beginning of every flight which the vast majority comply with, even if they’re not 100 percent sure why. Most of us assume its signal could interfere with navigation instruments, possibly causing a crash. This is technically true, but it’s not safety critical.
Pilot and author of Cockpit Confidential, Patrick Smith, says it’s more of an exercise of caution. “Can cellular communications really disrupt cockpit equipment? The answer is potentially yes, but in all likelihood no,” he said in an interview. The main issue is phone signals interfering with the airplane and causing more work for the pilots during critical phases of flight. Although it affects in a small degree, Smith says “Airlines and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) are merely erring on the better-safe-than-sorry side.”
Airplane pillows/blankets are reused.
Yes, airlines change the pillow cases and blankets every day, but not every flight so that blanket you’re sleeping under may not be so fresh. Most of the time, airlines just refold and re-use them on flights, according to ex-flight attendant Fatihah Sudewo.
“It depends on how cheap the airline is, but I’ve had my share seeing them [the cleaning team] refolding the blankets for the passengers on the next flight to use,” she wrote. “At least they were generous enough to replace the pillow covers and the headrest covers.”
Flight attendants dress the pillows with new covers and take the old ones alongside the blankets at the end of the day with them to be the washed. Fresh ones then come on the first flight in the morning, so if you’re flying midday or late night, be sure to stock up on that Vitamin C and hand sanitizer before hitting the tarmac. If that’s still gross to you, you may ask for a new blanket in a plastic bag or not use one at all.
Plane water is gross.
If you want to drink water, make sure it’s from the bottle. Avoid getting coffee or tea because chances are the water used to make them comes from the craft’s water tank located under the plane which is probably not very clean.
And so are the lavatories and other cabin surfaces.
Plane bathrooms are much worse. Not only do they have constricted spaces and unflattering lighting, they are very dirty also that even flight attendants avoid them if possible. Most of them only use the lavatory to wash their hands or if they really need to go to the bathroom. If it’s a short time, they oftentimes wait until they can use the bathroom at the airport.
Other cabin surfaces like food trays are not guaranteed clean either. Diapers have been laid on them and sometimes they’re even smeared with poo. They are not regularly washed and sanitized. Most people get sick after flying not because of what they breathe but because of what they touch and food trays are one of the culprits.
Pilots can’t eat the same meal at the same time.
The pilot and co-pilot are served different meals which they cannot share. Why? So that if it causes food poisoning, there will be someone left to fly the plane. However, New York Times says it’s not FAA regulation, but rather each airline decides their own rules.
Flight attendants, on the other hand, are a different case. Depending on the airline, sometimes they have the same meal as the passengers or have a much better one. In Sudewo’s experience, she says: “Our meals are slightly better than the passenger meals. While the quality of food varies by airline, she said that there’s “at least a trolley dedicated for the crews” with fresh fruit, bread rolls, desserts, drinks and more.
Those oxygen masks only give you 15 minutes of air.
That’s right. If there is an emergency and the cabin is depressurized, the oxygen masks that come down from the ceiling are attached to tanks which typically have only 15 minutes worth of supply per person. That amount of time seems short, but 15 minutes is plenty of time for the pilot to get the craft to a safe altitude where the oxygen masks are not needed anymore. This nightmare scenario will hopefully not happen to you, but if it does, at least you know how much oxygen supply you have, right?
Which air travel secrets fascinated you the most? Did we miss any? Let us know in the comments below.