Flight Secrets That Are Never Told To Passengers
Here are some flight secrets that are never told to passengers!Secrets
Let's investigate a few little-known mind-blowing facts about all things aeronautical. From the truth behind bad airline food to how picking the safest seat might save your life, here are some of the craziest flight secrets that are never told to passengers!
Always Board Last
Boarding is one of the most stressful parts of airplane travel. We’ve all been there: you’ve been through airport security, you finally get to the gate, only to see a huge line of passengers waiting to board your flight.
What most people don’t realize is that there’s not really much point in rushing to join the line, as the majority of airlines pre-assign specific seats to passengers. While some airlines like to call passengers in groups for boarding, you don’t necessarily have to adhere to that rule.
Boarding last is the easiest way to minimize the amount of time you spend holed up onboard, so assuming your hand luggage isn’t overly large and hard to fit in overhead storage, there’s not really any point standing, waiting in a line for a seat that already has your name on it! By boarding towards the end, there are also fewer people clogging up the gate area and jet bridge, speeding the process up overall.
What All Those Numbers and Letters on Your Boarding Pass Mean
While you wait, why not take a glance at your boarding pass? The 6-digit alphanumerical code that appears on most boarding passes is called a Passenger Name Record, which is used to identify individual passengers, just in case there is more than one passenger with the same name!
That code, which is recorded in the database of computer reservations systems that contain flight itineraries for each passenger, can reveal a lot about you, including your date of birth and contact details. That is one of the main reasons you should never throw your boarding pass away in a public trash can.
Among other things, the database that code corresponds to holds credit card information, passport details, as well as IP addresses if booked online. But if a code connected to all your personal information seems scary, hopefully you’ll never find the SSSS code on your boarding pass!
Passengers who find the four S’s code on their ticket may find themselves going through additional security checks. Short for Secondary Security Screening Selection, the code is added to boarding passes of passengers who airlines deem suspicious.
As we all know, airports take security very seriously and some things that might look totally innocent to us are seen as suspicious for airline officials. Last-minute flyers, one-way fares, or buying tickets using cash can all look a little suspicious to the guys at the airport security desk, so try not to panic if you see that code on your boarding pass; that is, if you don’t have anything to hide!
Airport Bird Control
Airplanes are pretty hefty pieces of machinery. It’s crazy to think that an average-sized commercial aircraft has a maximum take-off weight of about 175,000 pounds which includes 90,000 pounds of fuel, as well as 45,000 pounds worth of passengers, crew, and cargo! Despite their size, airplanes can still run into some problems in the air, often due to the other stuff that tends to dwell up there in the sky!
It goes without saying that collisions between planes and birds don’t often end well, for the bird that is. But they can still do some damage to an airplane when hitting it at speed, as you can see with a Turkish Airlines plane that collided with a bird in 2015. Luckily, the passengers were all fine, but the bird, not so much.
There are over 13,000 airplane bird strikes annually in the US, sometimes severe enough to take out plane engines, and as you can imagine, walls and fences aren’t very effective in keeping birds away from aircraft runways.
So, airports have to get creative to prevent bird-related accidents. One such method, used at Virginia’s Reagan National Airport, is firing blanks out of cannons to scare feathery fiends away from the airport, while other airports make their environment less bird-friendly by filling in ponds and replacing grass with gravel.
Salt Lake City’s airport, meanwhile, reduces its winged trespasser problem by using pigs to root around and eat gull eggs! Other airports, like France’s Lourdes Tarbes Pyrenees airport, light up LED screens with big pairs of googly eyes to scare off birds of prey, acting as a kind of aviation scarecrow!
Hailstorms And Lightning Strikes
But it’s not just birds that airports have to worry about. Extreme weather isn’t really something that can be scared off with a dirty look from a pair of LED eyes! Hailstorms are one of the most dangerous weather conditions for an airplane and they can cause some pretty crazy damage.
A particular jet’s nosecone took a real battering from hailstones that were as big as golf balls after flying through a hailstorm! The windows were so shattered that the pilots had to land the plane almost completely blind! Miraculously, no one was hurt, aside from the airline’s wallet who had to pay for repairs!
Hailstorms are one thing, but some nervous flyers also worry about the possibility of lightning striking an airplane. While that might seem highly unlikely, it’s actually estimated that each airplane in the U.S.’s commercial fleet is struck lightly by lightning at least once per year! While that may seem terrifying, it’s actually not as dangerous as you’d think.
Before an aircraft goes into service it undergoes lightning strike simulations that test its conductivity. That ensures lightning can travel uninterrupted across the plane’s exterior shell and back off into the sky through an extremity like the nose or a wingtip, leaving those inside totally unharmed, save for a ruined pair of underpants or two.
Airplane Toilet System
Have you ever used an airplane bathroom and wondered where exactly you’re flushing your waste away to? Contrary to popular myth, plane toilets aren’t allowed to be emptied into the sky, but accidents do happen!
When you flush an airplane toilet, a strong suction pulls the waste away using only a very small amount of water as a means to save weight and space on the aircraft and the contents travel to a large disinfectant-filled holding tank. At the end of a flight, the mixture is sucked into a tanker at the airport and then dumped.
However, the frozen chunk of pulverized stuff dumped from airplanes is made up of that delightful cocktail of human waste and a blue liquid disinfectant, and was found at ground level having fallen from a plane in 2017!
There were at least 27 documented incidents of blue ice meteors of that kind in the United States between 1979 and 2003, including incidence of blue ice falling through rooftops under airport landing paths.
While there is no mechanism that would allow pilots or flight attendants to perform any kind of blue poopy pranks intentionally, leaks sometimes do occur from the plane’s septic tank. So, if you ever find a big chunk of blue ice in your backyard, it’s probably not a blueberry popsicle.
Hidden Lavatory Lock Button
On the topic of mile-high restrooms, you probably didn’t know that there’s actually a secret way to unlock an airplane toilet from the outside. The next time a kid gets locked in an airplane bathroom, or you just fancy being thrown off a plane for being particularly creepy with a stranger, you can easily unlock it from the outside using just one finger.
Most cabin bathrooms’ exterior locks are tucked behind a metal lavatory sign for flight attendants to use in the event of an emergency. To open it, just lift the lavatory sign, slide the knob into the unlocked position, and then make a run for it before the flight attendants catch you!
Everyone knows that the food on airplanes is notoriously awful, but have you ever stopped to wonder why? Inflight meals are typically made on the ground by industrial catering facilities close to the airport and are usually prepared between 12 and 72 hours before an intended flight.
Contrary to popular belief, most airplane meals are not frozen, instead being blast chilled and transported to the aircraft for flight attendants to heat and serve on board. Some luxury airlines even have their own inflight chefs and kitchens, like those found aboard some Etihad Airways flights.
All that, and yet food in the air will never quite match up to the 5-star restaurants on the ground. But what really makes airplane food taste so bad? Turns out, it actually comes down to basic human biology.
Airplane cabins can have humidity levels as low as 10 percent while in the air, which is shockingly even drier than the Sahara Desert! When humidity levels are at rock bottom like that, our sinuses get so dehydrated that it affects our ability to taste and smell!
After a bit of time in an airplane cabin, your tongue’s ability to taste sweet flavors drops between 15 and 20% while salty flavors are dulled by as much as 20 to 30%! In an attempt to counteract that, some airlines drastically increase the amount of salt and sugar in their food, so you’re probably consuming a lot more calories from that inflight meal than you think!
If tasteless inflight meals are getting you down, there is actually something you can do about it! Turns out that donning a pair of noise-canceling headphones is just the ticket to making food and drink taste better in the air!
Strangely, studies have found that loud background noise can actually dampen our ability to taste food. So, using noise-canceling headphones to drown out the low-pitched drone of the airplane’s engine can help our senses come back down to earth! But it's not only passengers that have issues to chew over when it comes to the food served in the sky.
There are some very specific rules as to what pilots can and can’t eat while on the job and for good reason! Pilots and co-pilots are warned against eating the same meals while working as a preventative measure against mutual food poisoning! If something is badly wrong with one pilot’s meal, making them sick, the other pilot can take over.
However, there’s a pecking order to pilot food: in some airlines, the pilot will receive a meal from the first class menu, whereas the co-pilot will receive something from business class! That makes for quite an awkward dinner date!
"Do Not Pair" List Of Pilots
What with being responsible for hundreds of passengers’ safety, it’s no wonder that airline pilot has often been named one of the most stressful jobs in the world! While the stress of the job is one thing, just imagine having to spend hours stuck in a tiny cockpit with a co-pilot you really dislike!
Turns out, with such high stakes, avoiding pilots working with someone they don’t like is considered in the industry to be a matter of life and death!
To help reduce any airborne tensions, each captain, first and second officer gets a "do not pair" list on which they can list the names of co-workers with whom they’d rather not share a flight. Requests are submitted through a monthly schedule and the approved list of flying nemeses is fed into the airline scheduling system which stops two adversary pilots from ending up in the same cockpit.
While it may seem a little extreme, getting distracted by a workplace rivalry could result in a pretty serious accident, especially during take-off and landing where the most attention is required. If only such pleasant co-workers were guaranteed in every job!
The Safest Seat
Contrary to what movies and TV shows might have you believe, air travel is actually one of the safest modes of transportation, and your odds of dying in a commercial airline plane crash are a staggering 1 in 3.37 billion!
Despite the facts, nearly 1 in 3 Americans have a fear of flying and that fear has led many to wonder where the safest spot is in the event of an incident in the air. Turns out, an analysis of data from 17 plane crashes over the last 35 years conducted by TIME magazine figured out an answer.
TIME found that, historically, those seats in the back third of a plane had a 68% average chance of survival compared with 62% in the front section and 61% in the middle third.
You might think that one of the safest places to be on a plane would be in an aisle seat, as it gives you faster access to the various emergency exits onboard. However, according to the data, aisle seats in the middle third of an aircraft are the worst place you can be in the event of a crash, with a survival rate of 56%.
Meanwhile, middle seats specifically near the rear of the plane are the absolute safest place to be and give you a 72% chance of surviving a crash landing. Those are good odds but let’s just hope none of us ever has to put them to the test!
Hidden Airplane Features
If you’ve ever had a window seat on a flight, you might have noticed a tiny hole right at the bottom of the window. While it may look small, that is actually one of the airplane’s mightiest safety features. But why is it so important?
As air pressure drops as you fly higher, airplanes are designed to maintain air pressure at a safe and breathable level within the cabin. That significant difference in air pressure puts a lot of physical stress on the windows so they have to be built particularly strong.
While a normal, single-pane window would break easily at that altitude, airplane windows are made up of three strong panels of acrylic. The exterior window is for keeping the elements out and maintaining cabin pressure. If something were to happen to that first pane, the second panel would act as a fail-safe.
The one inside the cabin, meanwhile, provides a final line of defense, while keeping our hands off the others to avoid damaging them. The tiny hole, known as the bleed hole, is located in the middle pane, and its primary purpose is to balance the air pressure between the middle and outer panes. It also keeps the windows from fogging up or frosting over, because after all, most of our inflight fun comes from window gazing!
On the topic of airplane interiors, have you ever wondered about those small red or black triangles that can be found along cabin interiors?
Those are actually there to let the cabin crew know which window will give the best vantage point to view the wings of the aircraft, allowing them to check if there’s a problem with the wing or engine. So, if you’re sitting by the triangle, try not to get too paranoid if a flight attendant suddenly starts peering over your shoulder!
Aside from clever signs and icons, sounds are also used mid-air to keep things running like clockwork! Most regular flyers out there will recognize this sound:
While most of us know that it is usually a signal to get back to your seat and fasten your seatbelt, it can actually mean so much more! While each airline uses chimes slightly differently, there are some regularly used patterns that you can listen out for on your next flight.
A singular chime can be the pilot warning flight attendants of upcoming turbulence, but it might also mean he wants a cup of coffee! Two consecutive chimes usually mean that the airplane is approaching 10,000 feet whereas three or more chimes indicate a more serious problem, such as an extremely ill passenger or a warning for extreme turbulence.
Business Class vs First Class
Crying babies, cramped seats, and no legroom, flying economy really can be a stairway to hell. Meanwhile, advertised with private seats, free-flowing champagne, and chocolate-covered strawberries, it’s no wonder that a first-class flying experience makes its way onto many peoples’ bucket lists.
The luxurious service offered in first class might seem perfect for getting that much-needed rest while on a long-haul fight, but is the sky-high price really worth it? Well, compared to business class, usually the second-best type of ticket, it doesn’t appear so!
There are quite a few features that you’d think were specifically reserved for first-class flyers only that are actually readily available in many business-class sections! Both the first class and business class cabins of many airlines receive high quality, multi-course meals, sometimes even served with fine porcelain and glassware, as well as plush pillows and blankets; many business class cabins even offer complimentary pajamas too!
Those days, many airlines are investing into maximizing their business class services with a view to ditch first class altogether and some are even looking towards business class private pods!
The only noticeable difference between the two is that first class offers a slightly larger seat that sometimes comes with your own private suite, as well as a few extra items on the menu such as champagne and whiskey.
However, the enormous difference in price does not reflect the minimal difference in service. On average, a business class ticket will cost around twice as much as a standard economy seat, whereas for first class, you’ll be flying to the tune of six times the amount paid for an economy fare!
Secret Crew Rest Rooms
Long-haul flights can be bad enough for passengers, but have you ever wondered how flight attendants always seem so alert and chipper? Well, next time you board a long-haul flight, keep an eye out for a mystery door that looks something like the footage below.
While it might look like a plain old storage cupboard, those doors actually lead to a completely secret room. Up an extremely narrow flight of stairs, flight attendants will reach what’s known as a resting compartment, which is specially reserved for the cabin crew to get some well-earned shut eye.
Those rest compartments can usually be found in overhead areas of a long haul aircraft, one at the back for the flight attendants and one at the front for pilots. Each bed comes with a pillow and duvet as well as a safety belt that must be fastened if the crew member decides to catch some z’s!
Known by aircraft employees as controlled rests, flight attendants will have a designated amount of time to rest depending on the flight and are woken up by their fellow cabin crew through an interphone when their break is over.
Some fancier carriers, including Singapore Airlines, make sure to give their crew members a taste of the high life and provide luxe private cabins for them to get some shut-eye, silk pillowcases included! Pilots, meanwhile, often get their own private quarters at the front of the plane, which usually feature two spacious sleeping compartments, as well as two business class seats, a closet, and a lavatory.
The crew of a plane, pilots above all, being well rested is of the utmost importance, as demonstrated by some shocking statistics! Astonishingly, when surveyed by the British Airline Pilots' Association, 84% of pilots said that their ability to fly a plane had been compromised due to tiredness and 56% percent actually admitted that they’d fallen asleep while in charge of a plane!
In May 2021, there was even one pilot who fell asleep for 40 minutes mid-air on a commercial flight from Cairns to Redcliffe in Australia and accidentally overflew his destination by 70 miles before waking up!
Thankfully, the majority of commercial airplanes have autopilot to maintain things like altitude, so pilots aren’t actually required to be in full control of the aircraft for the entire flight. But it’s still incredibly dangerous for them to fall asleep.
Death On Board
While it’s not something we like to think about, people die just about everywhere, and sometimes that can include 30,000 feet in the air. Although extremely rare, cabin crew must be prepared for the unfortunate event of an in-flight death.
If a passenger does pass away during a flight the crew will usually have to wait until the plane reaches its final destination to remove the body from the plane. Sometimes airlines will offer the deceased passenger a final upgrade and bump them up to the quieter first class cabin.
If there’s really no room to move the deceased passenger, then the cabin crew will cover their body with a blanket after ensuring they’re buckled in for the safety of other passengers.
Singapore Airlines did one better than the old "hide them under a blanket and try not to freak out" method and launched a fleet of airbuses with compartments specifically installed to store an average-sized body in the event of an inflight death.
Known as corpse cupboards (which totally sounds like a death metal band, by the way), those lockers were specially installed on the Airbus A340-500 model. This makes sense, seeing as those planes fly the longest regular nonstop passenger flight in the world. To get from Singapore to the John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City, it takes around 18 hours and 40 minutes!
If you were amazed at these flight secrets, you might want to read about things you should never do on an airplane. Thanks for reading!