Traveling by plane is the fastest and most comfortable way to cross large distances. Of course, it’s also a bit scary, because accidents can always happen, but the same goes for any means of transport. In fact, you are much more likely to suffer a car crash than a plane crash. However, plane safety is not something to be taken lightly.
There are lots of little things, details and facts regarding air travel that you probably don’t know, and perhaps knowing them could somewhat relieve the stress induced by air travel. Here is a list of explanations for things you’ve always been wondering about.
1. Planes aren’t in perfect health before take off
Planes are such complex, intricate machines that you’d think every minuscule little thing must be in its correct place for it to function. Well, that is not entirely true. While planes are being constantly inspected for faults that could lead to catastrophic results, it is impossible to restore them to the pristine state of a newly-built airplane. So, most planes fly with some minor mechanical problems, but don’t worry: they are never going to become bigger problems. After all, those costly flight delays must be avoided no matter what.
2. The purpose of the handheld grips on the inside of the passenger doors
You may have noticed that there a lot of handles on the inside of the passenger doors. Ever wonder what they’re for? It’s simple, if passengers start panicking, while trying to calm them down, the flight steward holds on to these handles so they don’t get knocked down.
3. The pilot and copilot eat different food
When you think of being poisoned, you think of medieval monarchs having their servants taste their food in case someone has tried to do them harm. But it could happen in the present as well. With the lives of hundreds of people in their hands, the wellbeing of the pilot is crucial. This is why the food for the pilot is different from that of the copilot. This way, even if one of the dishes is poisoned and one of them is unable to keep on piloting, then the other can take over.
4. Locking your baggage doesn’t mean it can’t be opened
All those locking zippers with tiny padlocks turned out to be for nothing. It doesn’t really secure your baggage, because it is easy, with the help of a simple pen, to pry the zipper teeth open. Then you can just swipe the stuff right from the suitcase with no trouble at all.
5. Your bags are searched through without your knowledge
Taking recent events into account, it is no wonder that airplane staff needs to make sure there are no explosives or fire starters on board. So, sometimes they will go through you baggage anyway, despite the airport policies according to which bags can only be opened if they are the wrong temperatures (too hot or too cold), if they leak, or if they vibrate. So now you know that if your zipper looks broken, it was probably pried open.
6. Luggage insurance seals
If you want to absolutely make sure no-one goes through your stuff, you can pay a small fee to get a transparent seal. It is a luggage insurance that serves to stop the dishonest staff members who might otherwise rummage through your expensive looking and well-packed suitcase.
7. The reason for banning smoking on board
One reason is the fear of the cigarette butt starting a fire, as happened in the lavatory of Flight Varig 820 in 1973, resulting in the plane crashing. Another reason is the smoke. Smoke could be potentially filtered away so it wouldn’t bother the other passengers, but it also damages some electronic components, which is why it is prevented via the smoking ban.
8. Why your baggage gets lost
Most people have had their baggage lost at one point or another, and while in most cases it gets returned after a few days, the mystery of why it was lost in the first place is never solved. There could be a few explanations for it. For example, it could’ve been because it went through additional checks that superseded its flight schedule. Or it was an employee’s fault for putting the bag on the wrong trolley, or putting the wrong sticker on it, sending it to the wrong flight. It could’ve been your fault too, if you hadn’t removed the stickers from previous flights, causing confusion. Or you were just unlucky and your bag slipped off the wrong conveyor belt during connected flights, or was simply dropped from the trolley and left behind. The fact that airports have a way to automatically recognize luggage makes mistakes easy to fix. So don’t worry if it happens to you: just leave your contact details and you will eventually be reunited with your possessions.
9. Why you have to turn off your phone
It is not as dramatic as causing some critical failure in the plane’s ability to stay airborne, but it is important nonetheless. Phones could garble the radio communications between the pilot and the airline tower dispatcher and this is why it is required to switch them off.
10. Airplane staff and their families pay less for air fares
One of the reason airline staff have for putting in countless hours day in day out is the fact that they get reduced prices on plane tickets for the whole family. In fact, they have to pay only the taxes and the duties which means their tickets are basically free.
11. Secret lavatory mechanism
The lavatory doors can be opened from the outside. There is a switch beneath the sign that says “no smoking” or “lavatory” and it is used in cases of emergencies when the door can’t be opened from the inside. Good luck feeling like you have some privacy in the lavatory.
12. Best time to buy your ticket
The early bird gets the worm? Not when it comes to buying your tickets. Getting your ticket early doesn’t necessarily mean you will get it at a lower price, especially during peak times. The best (and cheapest) time to buy your plane tickets are Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays. Thank you, tireless researchers!
13. Flight attendants reciprocate niceness
Who doesn’t want to be treated well? What you give is what you get in return, and flight stewards are no exception. Be polite when asking them something, and they might just go out of their way to be nice to you.
14. You can raise the aisle armrests as well
There is a secret button hidden under the “fixed” armrests near their base. Just press it and voilà, more space!
15. The giant numbers on runways
The mystery of the giant numbers is finally solved! Apparently, they help pilots land by indicating the degree of the angle the runway is from the magnetic North pole.
16. Tipping off burglars
Try to write a friend’s address on the baggage instead of your home address. There are some people who note the addresses of travelers and rob their houses while they’re away.
17. Cats and dogs
Travelling with your pet is never easy. If you have a cat, then probably you won’t have a lot of trouble during flights. However, dogs will become anxious and you will need to calm them down by talking to them.
18. Headphone hazard
Headphones on airplanes are cleaned and reused. But if you don’t want to share headphones with who knows how many people, bring your own!
19. Oxygen masks
Oxygen masks contain about 12 minutes of oxygen. At least that’s what a specialist research group claims. So ration your oxygen carefully, don’t waste it. It could save your life and bring you back from the jaws of hyperventilation.