I've traveled all over the world, and ridden on planes ranging from luxury 777's to six-seater private jets that run on clanky propellers and a prayer. No matter how much I travel and how many planes I've encountered, I can't ever shake the feeling of unease that occurs when the pilot says "We've been cleared for takeoff: Flight attendants, take your seats." It's a phobia that will likely stay with me for life, and I've come to accept it.
That being said, these airline secrets simultaneously put me at ease while making me clutch my pearls in terror. On the one hand, it's great to know the truth. On the other hand, you just might wish you didn't. Check the insider info below, and decide how you feel about your next sky-high adventure.
In case of this type of malfunction, the most a pilot will divulge is that one of the engines isn't "working properly." Most of the time, they won't say anything at all. Try not to panic: Most planes can land normally, even if one engine is totally down.
Whether it be due to clouds, fog, and darkness, there are often times during a routine flight when a pilot can't see anything at all. Instead, he or she relies on autopilot to guide the way. Nothing like putting your life in the hands of a robot.
It's common for the seatbelt sign to turn on and off during a flight - most of the time, it's just routine turbulence. However, if the pilot tells the flight attendants to take a seat, that means that they are expecting an updraft. Basically, an updraft is a giant air bump, and it causes the plane to jerk up and down violently. Sometimes, the drink carts can even leave the floor and hit the ceiling.
The flight attendants do their best to clean up the plane after each flight, but planes are still hotbeds for bacteria. The worst offenders are the tray tables (and the buttons that are used to push them down).
Though they are sometimes successful, the reality is that a water landing is simply a plane, crashing into the ocean. Somehow, that doesn't sound nearly as graceful.
Though they tout themselves are real lifesavers, oxygen masks only contain about 15 minutes worth of oxygen from the moment of release. That doesn't seem like enough time, but bear in mind that if the oxygen mask has dropped, that means that the pilot is trying to get to a lower altitude (where you can breathe normally) as quickly as possible.
For some ungodly reason, many airlines have a problem with people stealing the lifejackets for souvenirs. In fact, flight attendants and airline experts advise fliers to check for them as soon as they sit down. If it's missing, it can be replaced.
If your flight is delayed, for whatever reason, you have an option that few people are aware of: The delayed airline is required to put you on a competitor's flight if it will arrive sooner than their own plane. Make sure to ask for this option the next time you're delayed. The only caveat: If the competitor has no seats on its plane, you're out of luck.
Recently, the fuselage of a Boeing 737 blew a hole during flight. The plane landed safely, but an inspection revealed that the plane had taken over 40,000 flights over the course of 15 years. In flight years, that's basically ancient.
Usually, it takes thousands of frequent flier miles or points to actually be translated into a discount or upgrade. The reason? There are so many deals and points programs circulating around the airline industry, they're losing their value. Still, best of luck finding a fantastic deal.
Sure, it saves you from having to buy an exorbitantly priced extra ticket. However, in the event of an emergency, having your baby on your lap is extremely dangerous. Even in cases when everyone was safe after an emergency landing, the mother's often lose their grip on their babies on impact.
There might also be exotic animals, organs, or blood that's being transported by the American Red Cross. How do you think these things get anywhere?
Most of the in-flight headphones, even the ones that you paid for, are re-used.
The FAA established this rule before they knew that cellphones have little to no impact on the actual flight. The reason you have to turn it off? Simply because they haven't gotten around to changing the rule.
Exhausted pilots often catch accidental zzz's during a trip. Thankfully, autopilot picks up the slack.
It happens all the time. Just contemplate that for awhile.
For many domestic flights, you are often put on a smaller regional airline that is owned by a larger airline. These planes don't have the same safety standards, and the pilots don't have nearly as much training.
According to one pilot, even if there are many passengers coming from a connection, the plane can't be delayed. This is because the high emphasis that airlines have for on-time performance. In other words, you better hustle to your connecting flight.
Airlines adjust arrival times so they can improve their on-time travel record. That's why it might come as a pleasant surprise when your two-hour flight gets you to your destination in under 90 minutes.
Airlines are in a constant race to achieve a lower bottom line. Because of this, they often insist that planes take off with much less fuel then they are capable of carrying. In fact, many pilots claim that they made it through their flight with "just enough to land safely."
Sure, there are endless safety precautions in place, and statistics show that plane accidents are rare. Still, you're traveling at 39,000 feet at 400 miles per hour. If something goes wrong, the stakes are much, much higher than if you were firmly planted on the ground.