Whether you fly once a year or once a week, there are still a few things you don't know about flying. From the ordering code to weird safety features, there are plenty of hidden aspects to life among the clouds. Here are 21 secrets you never know about flying.
1. The oxygen masks have a 15-minute limit.
According to experts, the drop-down emergency oxygen masks are usually equipped to pump out oxygen for about 12 to 15 minutes. But don't panic. It normally takes a pilot far less time to drop the plane to safe altitude. If you ever find yourself in a situation that needs these masks, just try to breathe and relax.
2. They are sizing you up as you board.
Flight attendants do more than just serve food and beverages; they are trained first responders. As the passengers enter the plane, they quickly make assessments. They will notice which passengers might be problematic, who might be in need of extra assistance. They also notice which passengers are fit in case they can be helpful when there is an emergency.
3. They communicate with a secret code.
Flight attendants use a system of chimes and bells to communicate across the cabin without letting the passengers know. These messages might be anything from the number of remaining snacks to turbulence detected on the flight path.
4. It doesn't actually pay very well.
Flight attendants who earn wage hourly don't actually start getting paid until the plane doors close. That means doing safety checks, greeting and assisting passengers during the boarding process, they are not getting paid. Similarly, they stop getting paid after the doors open. Hours spent away from home but not in the air are compensated with a rate as low as $1.5 an hour.
5. Order diet coke if you want to be annoying.
Flight attendants might be annoyed when passengers order Diet Coke during beverage service. They hate it for a good reason. The extremely carbonated fizz in Diet Coke takes forever to settle at over 30,000 feet in the air, so Diet Coke takes longer to pour than any other soft drinks or beverage. Don't fret, they'll still serve you.
6. They keep their hands behind their backs for a reason.
You may haven't noticed before, the flight attendants greet passengers with their hands hidden behind their backs. It turns out they do this for a good reason. Hiding their hands makes it easy to count the passengers, making sure the number entering the airplane matches the number expected in the plane's documentation.
7. There's no rules against flight attendants fraternizing with passengers.
As for flight attendants fraternizing with passengers, many big-name airlines don't really have policies against it. Although flight attendants are often fighting off unwanted attention, they are also free to meet a potential partner if they so choose. So if you find your flight attendant quite attractive, you can go ahead and shoot your shot.
8. Yes, flight crews do get involved with each other.
Although it may sound stereotypical, there are cases of flight crews getting involved with each other. The long and difficult time spent working in close proximity makes it easier to relate to one another. While flight attendants can fraternize with each other, their main priority is, of course, to remain professional at all times.
9. Turning off the phones isn't actually that necessary.
When the flight attendant requests turning off your mobile devices before takeoff, you’d better just do as they say. While failing to turn it off won’t cause the plane to crash, there’s still a very good reason they ask you to do it. Cellular signals are strong enough to interfere with air traffic control frequencies, which is particularly annoying during takeoff and landing.
10. The possibility of scoring an upgrade is low.
Your polite attitude towards your flight attendant is certainly appreciated, but the flight attendant won't actually offer you an upgrade because of it. According to an anonymous flight attendant, there is little possibility to get an upgrade to business or first class, because the crew has to file a report. It also depends on meal and seating availability.
11. There's a reason they turn off the lights.
As the plane prepares for takeoff or for its descent, the lights in the cabin will get shut off. Since takeoff and landing are the most tricky stages of a flight, the lights get turned off so that everyone's eyes can adjust to the light in case of an emergency. This can help people orient themselves with the space easily if they need to take action.
12. There's a secret compartment for their naps.
When it comes to long-haul flights, you might get to take several snoozes but what about the flight crew? Don't worry, flight attendants get to take their breaks too. Big planes like Boeing 777 or 787 jets have secret windowless sleeping quarters for staff, which are built above or below the galley.
13. Definitely do not accept a coffee.
As a rule thumb, you should NEVER drink water from the lavatory tap on the plane. But the potable water used in coffee and tea is safe, right? Well…Although the tanks for those drinks are cleaned, they don't get cleaned as often as you'd think. Also, the valve for cleaning lavatory waste is pretty close to the one for filling clean water. So next time, it's best to stick to the bottled beverages.
14. The food is questionable too.
Meals served on longer flights usually look pretty balanced, but the nutritional content of those meals is shocking. Those in-flight meals have basically zero nutritional value as they are loaded up with salt, sugar, fat, and simple carbs that make you feel full. Our recommendation is to load up on snacks before you board, especially if you are a frequent flyer.
15. Be wary of the blankets and pillows.
Airplane amenities such as courtesy blankets, pillows and even headphones aren't really very fresh, although they are repackaged with plastic wrap. Usually, they don't even get washed. The only time those blankets are clean is during the first flights of the day. So just bring an extra jacket next time. Better safe than sorry!
16. Your extra bags won't bring down the plane.
It’s annoying to be charged with additional fees for overweight luggages, but the truth is that the few extra pounds are not going to bring the plane down. Most planes are designed to transport at least one stowed bag per passenger. In fact, the airline industry has practiced using sandbags to even out the weight in order to maintain this weight balance. Still, that doesn't necessarily explain why airlines charge for extra bags.
17. Cheaper tickets mean a less safe flight?
If you’ve ever wondered whether flying on a budget airline or purchasing discount tickets means taking a gamble on safety, there’s no need to fret. There are a lot of elements considered to cut corners in ticket costs in the complex system of ticket pricing, such as leg room amenities, seat selection and baggage fees. However, they can’t compromise safety constraints.
18. You might want to think twice about first class.
It's probably not all that worth it to sit in first class if you think it is safer. Studies have shown that in a plane crash, those who are sitting towards the front of the plane are more likely to die, while passengers in the rear of the plane have the higher survival rates compared to those in first class.
19. Be nice to check-in staff.
It is not a smart thing to do to be rude to a check-in staff. They have the ability to determine where you sit. If you're rude and there's a slew of babies on board, they just might sit you right in the thick of the crying and fussing. Anyway, being polite to others is always an appreciated behavior.
20. This job is not for everyone.
Many people see flight attendants as having a glamorous job, but the job is actually a demanding one. You're constantly jet-lagged, sometimes having to work on flights back to back. You'll often get 4 A.M. wakeup calls and work on holidays, not to mention being kept apart from your family for long periods of time.
21. Don't go barefoot.
It can be difficult getting comfortable when you’re stuck on a plane for hours at a time. Some people choose to take their shoes off. Unfortunately, not everyone accepts when passengers do this. Apart from being off-putting for other travelers, flight attendants advise against it because it’s not particularly hygienic. You never know when you might step in something that was dropped on the floor by accident.