10 Secrets You Never Knew About Air Travel
Considering how used to flying we all are and how routine it is nowadays to just hop on a plane and end up in another part of the world,
it can be easy at times to forget just what a massive feat of engineering it is to get a giant hunk of metal to soar graciously through the sky and how much extra work and manpower goes on around us to ensure that we’re as comfy as can be bedded into our in-flight films, naps and paperback novels on a long flight. But the cabin crew, pilots and everyone else working on the flight never miss a beat; they’ve seen it all before, know exactly what goes on behind the scenes and are privy to all the tricks of the trade. So don’t take your seatbelt off yet- pay attention to your flight attendant and find out some surprising secrets about flying...
Turning Off Electronics
Everyone’s used to the standard procedure by now- turn off all electronics before take-off so that the radio signals don’t interrupt the plane’s navigation equipment and cause it to crash. If this cautionary tale always seemed a little unlikely that’s because it is: Having to turn off electronics on a plane is completely useless. Mobile devices can do nothing to bring down an aircraft but they can be a serious bother to pilots, hence the ban. Imagine sitting in a cockpit trying to nail a tricky landing when all a sudden your comm. channel is overrun by interference from 100+ mobile devices chattering away in the back- no wonder they added a ‘flight’ mode to smartphones!
The Real Reason You’re Rushed to Your Seat
Flight attendants can often feel very stiff and regimented when you’re boarding your flight- pointing, directing and herding everybody into their seat, making sure everybody is buckled up and knows where the exits are with robotic precision and without ever letting that painted-on smile slip. The reason for all that urgency? It’s quite simple: nobody gets paid until the doors are shut and the plane starts moving, so the crew are often just as keen to get moving as the passengers. So next time you spend ages playing around with the overhead storage, just remember it’s not just people’s time you’re wasting but their money too.
Pilots Are Woefully Undertrained
Not just the scourge of students and the unemployed, zero-hour contracts are becoming rife in many industries, including commercial flights. Most of the pilots on regional or local flights are employed on a per-flight contract, which means they receive a fraction of the training, experience and pay that they’d receive under the employ of a large flight company. As a result of this apathy can be rife in the cockpit- many pilots have admitted to flying slower than normal to make more money (much to the delight of the cabin crew surely) and only get a move on if it’s the homeleg.
NEVER Drink the Water
It’s a commonly known fact amongst many in the industry that the drinking water in planes is utterly FILTHY and should never be consumed. The tanks that hold the water in these sometimes 60 year old planes are never cleaned, and most have built up layers of grime and dirt that are inches thick and decades old. On top of that, the ports used to empty the lavatory waste and refill the aircraft with water sit right next to each other, use the same tubes and are often serviced by the same person right after one another. Whilst the tanks do get sanitized they are never properly cleaned, and any parasite worth its salt knows how to build immunity to such things. If you’re thirsty on a flight, don’t order anything that doesn’t come from a bottle- it’s just not worth the risk.
Toilets Unlock From The Outside
This one is a little more well-known but still a surprise to most casual flyers. Practically all airport lavatories have a secret lock mechanism that allows them to open the door from the outside, usually found concealed behind the no-smoking sign. All you need to do is lift the flap up and slide the bolt to gain access to the cubicle- worth bearing in mind if you ever find yourself gunning for the Mile-High Club!
Never Underestimate a Flight Attendant
Though a lot of the day-to-day aspects of being a flight attendant can be boiled down to delivering the pre-flight safety inspection and lugging the snack cart up and down the aisles, don’t think that that’s all the cabin crew is capable of. In addition to their extensive training in CPR, fire safety, first-aid and even delivering babies, flight attendants are also well-versed in the art of self-defence. Rather than being a means to lay the smackdown on rude or unruly passengers though, attendants are primarily taught how to defend themselves and others against security threats such as somebody rushing the cockpit or threatening to attack other passengers. The main course of action in these scenarios is to disarm and restrain the attacker, usually keeping them tied up in the back until further help is available once they’ve been restrained.
Someone’s probably playing a Game with You
Don’t lie: every profession bunks off and messes around on the job a little bit, and flight attendants are no different. Ever wondered how attendants keep themselves amused and morale high when they’re on a long-haul or overnight flight? The answer’s simple- they play games and gossip with each other. Common games played down the aisle include trying to find the best (or worst, if the claws are out or it’s one of those kinds of flights) looking people on board and standing next to them; playing chicken with other attendants; or splitting the workload down the middle and arbitrarily sorting the passengers into two groups (such as dark vs fair hair, or glasses vs no glasses) and only catering to one of the groups. Oh, and if you or another passenger is acting out of line or annoying other people on the flight, you can bet you’re going to get gossiped about in the staff-only area.
Nothing Is New
Unfortunately, the water isn’t the only thing on your flight...in fact; unless you brought it yourself it’s probably safe to assume that everything on-board is recycled and more than a little grubby. Blankets and pillows are more often than not just refolded and stuffed back into the bins between flights, and usually only get changed if they’re lucky enough to be the first flight of the morning in a major transport hub. The same thing happens with headphones- after each flight they’re simply taken down to the warehouse, ‘cleaned’ and repackaged, ready to go again. And be very wary about touching your food tray or putting any unpackaged food on it- such trays are commonly used by parents when changing small children and most attendants claim that they’ve had more dirty diapers laid out on them than they ever have hot food. Now try and guess how often those trays are cleaned and sanitized?
Most Flights Carry Human Organs
Contrary to popular belief, there isn’t actually a squadron of elite medical planes that fly around the world distributing aid and organs to the sick. Instead, if there are important medical goods that need transporting such as organs, blood or cadavers then more often than not they just get shipped into the cargo hold along with everything else. If you’re ever sitting by the window watching them load/unload cargo, keep an eye out for any long boxes being ferried about with the word “head” printed on them- you’ve now got a fairly good idea of what’s inside them.
Tips Can Go A Long Way
Despite the stress and the strain involved with being a flight attendant it is still a largely thankless profession- unless you count awkwardly mumbling ‘thanks’ on your way out to be proper reimbursement. Tipping isn’t expected or customary on flights, and as such a little bit of cash can go a long way. If you slip your FA an extra few quid with your first drink you’ll not only put yourself in every staff member’s good books but you’ll probably be able to drink for free for the rest of the flight too!