Things Airlines Don’t Want You to Know

Come to think of it, the average traveler knows only a little about what’s involved in the daily operations of commercial airlines. Most of us are just concerned about going from one destination to another, safely. But how much do you, as a traveler, should know when it comes to the air you breathe on-board and the coffee you drink. There are few things that some airlines prefer to keep to themselves. However, here are a few things you should keep in mind the next time you travel on airlines.

Secrets of Airlines

Food Trays in Airlines

Food Trays in Airlines | (c) Photo By Quality Hunters2

Fewer checked bags mean more sandbags in the cargo hold

Don’t you wonder at times, when the pilot makes an announcement that you’re being delayed at the gate while a few extra bags are being loaded into? How can that be, they should have such things in order in airlines. Well consider this, it is not actual passenger bags that they are loading in. Instead they are adding sandbags to correct weight and balance in an airplanes. This is a common practice in the airline industry.

“The weight balance of the airlines is set up to where they’re usually expecting a certain amount of bags to balance out the airlines,” explains the captain for a major U.S. airline. “So if we have 50 passengers on board, we expect 50 bags and that offsets the weight of the passengers and balances out the aircraft to give it the right center of gravity for take off.”

Your Captain and crew are often exhausted in airlines

Pilots and crew members in airlines will tell you that reporting to work after limited sleep and long on-duty hours is a very common occurrence in the  industry of airlines. Under current FAA rules, pilots can be scheduled to be on duty for up to 16 hours, 8 of which can be flying hours.

Another longtime pilot for a U.S. carrier says, a recent hop from the Caribbean to New York that involved a delay that led him being on duty for 15.5 hours that day. “I had literally less than eight hours at the hotel [at the flight’s destination] because it was 25 minutes there and 25 minutes back…we were pretty well exhausted that whole next day.”

As for us passengers, how many of us would have thought twice about boarding airlines, if they had known how tired their pilot was?

Your coffee might be made from bacteria-ridden water in airlines

Coffee/tea that is served in airlines are made from water pumped into the airplane’s holding tanks. These are pumped by municipal sources at airports around the country. That means the water can be from many different cities mixed together in these tanks as the airlines refill at each new airports. This probably is something that never came to anyone’s mind, but most of us are unaware that the water used to make the coffee is the same stuff that comes out of the lavatory sinks!

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) airlines are responsible for “safe drinking water, both from your tap and on airplanes”. But a 2004 survey by the EPA found many aircraft water systems are out of compliance with national primary drinking water regulations designed to apply to traditional stationary water systems. Since airplanes fly to many destinations and are allowed to board water where they land, and as airline passengers are not allowed to bring in a bottled water we purchased at the airport, one should refrain from drinking water, coffee or tea that is given to us within the flights.

A new Aircraft Drinking Water Rule was signed in 2009 by the EPA to ensure safe and reliable drinking water for passengers and crew. It goes into effect in 2011.

The lavatories are even worse than you thought in airlines

How often do you see passengers with their shoes off and heading out the lavatory with only their socks, and sometimes bare feet? Something to reconsider for sure. When there are quick stops and turnaround periods, there is hardly enough time for a wipe down of those toilets. In his book The Germ Freak’s Guide to Outwitting Colds and Flu, microbiologist Charles Gerba, Ph.D., put lavatories on commercial jets to the test. He had found E. coli contamination everywhere, from the faucets to the doorknobs. And the folks who face on-board bathrooms on a daily basis see them in a similarly unclean light.

I strongly suggest you board airlines with your hand sanitizer or wipes.

Chemicals from the airplane engine can make way into cabin air in airlines

Air inside an airplane cabin is circulated side to side rather than from the front of the plane to the back. What does that mean? It means you are breathing the same air as the passengers next to you throughout your flight. So basically, you are breathing a mix of fresh air and re-circulated cabin air, which gets more staler the longer the flight is.

There is more to worry about than the sneezing and coughing passenger next to you. In 2009, an undercover investigation by Swiss and German TV networks found contaminated air was a problem in 28 of 31 samples taken from inside cabins. The studies found high levels of a toxin called tricresyl phosphate, a chemical used in modern jet oil with effects that include everything from drowsiness and headaches to neurological problems.

Now you know about how airlines function, be sure to take precautionary measures when you travel on a flight next time.

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