In this blog, we will provide some information on items you may – or may not - be aware of. While these facts may be interesting, they may also cause one to pause the next time they want to use that fold down tray it front of them. In no order, here are some rare facts that the airlines don’t want you to know.
#1 Airplane Seats Really ARE Getting Smaller:
You aren't going crazy and you aren't putting on weight (at least not when it comes to airline seats). You are correct in thinking that the seats on airplanes are getting smaller and the distance between them has also shrunk. Since deregulation of the industry in the 1970s, the amount of legroom you have had has gone from an average of 35 inches to just 31 inches today. This has allowed them to squeeze additional seats onto the plane, which has also gotten easier due to the seats themselves shrinking from 18 inches to just 16.5.
While these seats have been shrinking, the average person from the industrialized world has only gotten bigger. Since 1980, global obesity rates have actually doubled so while it makes sense to add seats to increase profits, it has become an increasingly bigger problem for the growing population.
#2 Oxygen Masks Only Last 15 Minutes:
If you thought you had an unlimited supply of oxygen pumping into your mask that would “drop in front of you should the airplane become unstable”… that's just not accurate. The masks are attached to tanks with a limited supply of about 15 minutes, but even that little fact isn't as surprising as the one the airline industry doesn't advertise: the gas you're breathing doesn't start out as oxygen.
You would think that the easiest means of storing oxygen on a plane is to just store oxygen on the plane, but that's not what's going on. There is a chemical cocktail contained within the tanks that usually includes barium peroxide. The chemical mixture heats up and the two oxygen atoms split and are sent down the tube and into your lungs. So, you don't have to worry about taking in a little bit of extra barium or any noxious chemicals. It's safer and more efficient to have this mix on board instead of hundreds of canisters of compressed oxygen, which, by the way, is highly explosive.
#3 Planes Are Hit By Lightning All The Time:
You're sitting in the window seat and you see a brilliant flash of light off in the distance, usually hundreds or thousands of feet below. Lightning can be as beautiful as it is deadly, but you're safe and cozy up here because planes can't be struck by lightning. Right? Actually, planes are struck by lightning all the time!
Don't stop traveling by air just because of lightning, though. Planes are actually designed to take the lightning strikes. Any airplane will eventually run into a thunderstorm in the clouds. While the lightning can cause some concern to passengers, wind is the real problem for anyone wishing to remain airborne. Again, don't freak out! As Superman once said, statistically, it's still the safest way to travel.
#4 Blankets and Pillows are Rarely Washed:
Not that this is that much of an issue any more, since most airlines have pulled blankets and pillows, but for those flights that still offer them . . . most airlines do not clean the blankets and pillows more than once a week. You might think so since the attendants hand them to you in a nicely folded and plastic-sealed pack. It all depends on the airline, but American Airlines has said they wash blankets every five to seven days. Now just imagine how many people have been under that blanket and coughed, sneezed, or worse during those five days. It isn't just the blankets either. According to JetBlue, "the pillow and the blanket could be on that flight for four to six flights before being repacked." You think those headphones are brand new since they are shrink-wrapped in plastic? Uhhhhh…..Think again!
#5 Worst Kept “Secret” in The Travel Industry:
Airlines overbook their flights. Not just for that one flight that might have inconvenienced you back in 1989, but for every single flight they manage. They do this for a very reasonable (if coldly capitalistic) reason: they don't make any money if the planes take off at less than 75% - 80% capacity, which is called the plane's load or revenue factor. They're actually hoping people who made flight arrangements won't make it to the airport in time, will get caught up in security, get delayed in the bathroom, or start having too much fun at the bar and forget about the plane, because there's a very good chance your seat was also sold to someone else.
One of the ways airlines can successfully overbook a flight is based on their history. They use databases and a myriad of logarithms of their own statistical information, which indicates no-show rates for similar flights from dates and times before. They use this information to build a forecast, which helps determine just how many seats they expect to be able to oversell. Most of the time, this works out fairly well, and few people ever need to get bumped (See United Airlines. This is industry jargon for replacing a paying customer, who had a seat on a flight, with a different paying customer who had the same seat on the same flight.) Should bumping occur, they will first ask for volunteers and then move on from there, but they're required to compensate travelers when this happens.
Once it's all calculated, the airlines are still able to maintain a profit, even while purchasing hotel rooms, meal coupons, and other financial requirements to help their customers who have been bumped from a flight. Gotta love those airlines.