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25 Surprising airlines facts and myths

About Airlines and air travel

Everyone is flying at some point. Okay, maybe not everyone, but most of us. Some have done that numerous times already with various airlines. Do we know everything about the airlines and air travel? Have you ever wondered why we do certain things before, during or after the flight? Even frequent flyers hardly ever ask themselves why certain procedures are in place. Children are sometimes curious, but get something like “It’s supposed to be that way” kind of an answer. Let’s look at some common misconceptions and urban myths and try to get to the truth. So here are 25 surprising airlines facts and myths. Not all of them are true.




Flight and airlines facts

  • Morning flights are better because the air is less bumpy. There is also less chance to hit thunderstorm, as these tend to happen mostly in the afternoon. So set your alarm clock  early!
  • Flight times are adjusted so that the airlines could have better on-time record. If the flight only takes 1 hour, they will schedule it to fly 15 minutes more, so that even if late, it will still be officially on-time.
  • Landing in the rain can be bumpier, because the plane needs to touch the runway hard to avoid aquaplaning. Although pilots are usually judged by their landing skills, hard landing is necessary and a correct, safe way to land the machine.
  • A way for the plane crew to alert the airport of a hijacking is achieved through leaving the wing flaps (these things that are used to slow the plane down while landing) in upward position. The authorities on land can then react accordingly.

airlines

 airlines

Safety

  • Oxygen Masks on most airlines are made to last for about 15 minutes. One shouldn’t wait too long, as changing the altitude would make you pass out within 15-20 seconds. Actual times vary from 11 minutes to 22 minutes, depending on the delivery system and number of passengers using it. 
  • The lights are dimmed when landing at night for a reason – to make sure your eyes get adjusted to the dark. This way, if you need to evacuate, you are more comfortable to move in the dark.
  • A lot of people are afraid of the lightning. The truth is planes get struck all the time, so no need to worry. The airlines engineers have taken care of the construction to withstand the stress.
  • There is no safest place to sit on the plane – seats next to the wing are usually less bumpy though. If the plane crashes, it really depends on the circumstances who survives and who doesn’t.
  • You shouldn’t travel is you have severe cold, as it can lead to damage to your ears drums and you may lose your hearing

Planes don’t retire

airlines

If properly serviced, a plane does not have to retire, so even very old planes can still be fully operational

  • even if an engine failure happens, a plane can still run with just one engine working and pilots probably won’t tell you about it. If both engines fail, the plane can glide in the air for some time, reducing its speed and altitude.
  • The real reason why you need to put your laptop away during landing is because you may harm yourself or others if the plane touches down too hard. Headphones need to be removed because the captain needs you to hear instructions.
  • Turbulence is not dangerous for a plane as its construction is designed to stand the stress. For pilots it’s just another annoying obstacle and they try to avoid it in order for passengers to have stress free flight.




Many passengers are afraid of flying. Mostly its uncontrolled fear of something going wrong – unknown noises and bumps. The truth is flights are safe. To illustrate just how safe they are, here is a chart of fatal probability of different modes of transport (and other factors).

airlines

Drinking water

You should never drink tap water from the toilets – only bottled water can be trusted. It can be quite polluted and cause poisoning. The same goes for water used to make tea and coffee – apparently the tanks are hardly cleaned. Bear in mind that boiling water can’t reach 100C in the air. Bring a water purifier with you – and clean the water within minutes!

Did you know?
You get served frozen food which is kept for up to 72 hours

Pilots

  • Pilots sleep a lot of times while the plane is in auto pilot mode. The reason for that are cheap, loud hotels and lack of rest.
  • Different food is served for two pilots in order to avoid food poisoning.
  • Pilots may not be as experienced as you would think. A lot of times, without even knowing it, you will be flying on a subcontractor flight. The requirements for the pilots may be different and not necessarily higher standard. However, it is required by law to inform passengers of such flights . Pilots are never allowed to fly a commercial aircraft until they have been fully certified.

Pilots are humans, just like us

cockpit

And if urged to work 16 hour shifts, sometimes they need to nap during the flight

Attendants

  • Electronics are not all that harmful – in fact attendants often use their mobile phones when others are told to shut them off. Feel free to use your Kindle!
  • One of the popular rumors spreading through the internet: Food trays are hardly ever cleaned. Make sure to think twice before touching them – people traveling with babies often have to change dirty diapers. Usually, the trays are cleaned every night though. 
  • Some sources reveal that flight attendants sometimes wait for passengers to fall asleep before starting to serve meals. This is done to reduce the work load. This may be untrue and false information, but during couple of previous long haul flights I’ve seen that passengers were NOT woken up due to meals being served. 
  • When an empty flight takes place, the crew can entertain themselves by riding on the metal trays down the aisle while the plane takes off. It’s called “aisle surfing”.
  • Most attendants get self-defense training along with first aid, CPR and other disciplines.




Did you know?

Fun fact
The toilet door can be unlocked from the outside, unlocking mechanism is hidden right behind the smoking sign. Also, there are ash trays on the toilet doors beside the no smoking sign , for those passengers who still decide to smoke so that they won’t just trash the lit cigarette in the bin which could lead to a fire.

Extras for sale

Next time you buy earphones, be aware that even if they are wrapped, they may not be new. Quite often, used earphones found on other flights are cleaned and repacked again. Make sure to bring your own headphones and don’t forget an airplane adapter!

Luggage

Luggage is treated quite badly, so make sure no fragile belongings are kept in the luggage or wrap them carefully. Even better – invest in a good travel bag.

Hopefully these little facts will make you more aware of what’s going on during a flight. Figures don’t lie – airplane travel is much safer than traveling by car or train. So, if you are still hesitating and worried about the safety – be assured it is safe. Some places are just too far away to drive, so taking a flight somewhere you always wanted to go is a must, especially since flight tickets are so cheap nowadays. The price is reflected in the quality of service, so don’t expect it to be first class when you haven’t paid for first class. Flight attendants are human too and do their best to be there for us, passengers, and fulfill our every need. Take time to thank them and the pilots. Leave them a magazine, praise for a good landing and who knows – maybe next time your flight will be cleaner and smoother.

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2 Comments

  1. I couldn’t refrain from commenting. Exceptionally well written!

  2. Edwin Clements

    Your comment about different food being served to the pilot and copilot reminds me of a movie called “Zero Hour” from about 1957, when they had a pilot and co-pilot both eat food-poisoned fish for dinner during the flight, and got sick and incapacitated (along with a number of other people on the plane), and the only person on the plane who had any flying experience was an ex-World War 2 fighter pilot who hadn’t flown in 10 years. It is a pretty suspenseful movie. I watched it again the other day online. I first saw it when I was about 10 years old.

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