Buy a ticket, taxi down the runway, and take off. Flying is easy enough, right? Sure, there might be a little bump during the flight, or the cabin could run out of the chicken curry you were hankering after, but soon enough you’ll land and get on with the rest of your day. Such is the simplicity of air travel.
Yet, behind the scenes of a relatively calm flight, there are always plenty of things going on that the people who work in aviation don’t want you to know.
Some airlines prioritise speed over a smooth flight
Did you know that that certain airlines prioritise a smoother flight than others? According to an air-traffic controller writing on Reddit, American low-cost carrier Southwest airlines prioritises quick (and safe) take-offs and descents which cuts the journey time and can save the airline money. American Airlines and United, however, are all about ensuring a smooth ride, with pilots looking out for turbulence, asking air-traffic control about upcoming bumpiness, and diligently reporting back to HQ.
Planes often fly with bits missing
One engineer explained how there’s a huge list of things that are permitted to be missing from the aircraft, yet it’s still able to fly. Reddit user PiperArrown3191 explains that the list is infact a massive book called the “Minimum Equipment List (MEL). This is what can be broken on the aircraft while it still remains airworthy. If certain lights are broken, the aircraft is restricted to daytime use.”
Pilots eat separately
Passenger safety is prioritised to the extent that pilots are even given two different meals. Under Ichago says, "They’re not even allowed to share, just in case they get food poisoning."
You’ll probably be flying with human remains
Users also recommend that passengers keep an eye out for white boxes being loaded onto the aircraft. "That’s a dead body, or, as we call it in the industry, human remains." One baggage handler laments: "Inside of the box is a bag that holds the body, most of the time it is black so you can’t see in it. And no, it is not fun when the box falls apart. I was paid far too little to pick up a dead off of the ground and put it back in the box." The thread estimates that pilots carry around eight dead people each year, and yes, they are listed on the airline manifest.
There is probably poo everywhere
Be careful what you touch inflight. One flight attendant suggests giving the tray tables a wide berth. "Don't touch the tray tables. People change their poopy babies on those. And on the floor."
The strangest airplane patents
The strangest airplane patents
The saddle seat, proposed by Airbus Operations in 2013, in which the customer sits in a fold down seat more akin to a bike seat than a chair. Back and neck support free, of course.
Proposed in 2014 by Zodiac Seats France, an aeroplane seat manufacturer, the Economy Class Cabin Hexagon makes passengers sit in alternating backward and forward facing seats in an attempt to maximise space and minimise the chance of avoiding eye contact.
Zodiac Seats France
Filed for patent in 2013 by The Boeing Company, the Upright Sleep Support System is deployed from a backpack that sits on the chair and is designed to allow passengers the chance to lie face first onto it, with a massage table esque cut out for your face.
The Boeing Company
Airbus Operations GmbH
Special treatment exists
Additionally, if you’ve ever seen flight attendants bend over backwards to help horrible people, this could be because on several flights the crew has a list of all passengers which has their frequent flier status, or notes to explain whether they're friends or family of the crew. Flight attendants will also respond nicely to people who are nice to them. From organising an upgrade if you have a horrible neighbour, to being slipped a few treats from first class, if there’s time or it’s a long flight cabin crew can sometimes go out of their way to say thanks to a passenger who is making their flight extra-pleasurable.
Horses might be travelling just a few foot behind you
One Reddit poster shared how much her horses love to travel. "On the big transatlantic flights behind the ‘back’ of the plane there are containers for horses. A special horse attendant sits in with them and owners and riders can sit in the back row for access. They get loads of hay and cookies for the inflight experience, and there’s an access hatch from the main aircraft." Sometimes the G-force knocks them over though and they end up sitting down, but they're up again pretty soon eating the hay.