Airplane secrets

Airplane secrets

‘Welcome aboard’, ‘have a safe and pleasant journey’, ‘the exits are here, here and here’ – we’re all familiar with the airplane lingo, but have you ever wondered what they’re not saying out loud?

We asked a selection of pilots, cabin crew and ground staff from different airlines and airports around the country what they secretly think about rules, passengers and attitudes to flying.

At the airport

"Many passengers ask us on check-in where the safest seats on the plane are. There are no ‘safest’ seats. Everything is designed for the plane not to crash - so if it happens, no one could have predicted how it was going to go down.”

“For goodness sake, arrive at the airport early – the amount of people that miss their flight because they didn’t account for having to queue is astounding. Likewise, if you have been delayed getting there, don’t queue for half an hour and then shout at us when we tell you you’ve missed check-in – inform a member of staff as soon as you realise you’re cutting it fine.”

“The cliché that if you wear a suit you might get an upgrade is only a little bit true. We won’t upgrade you for wearing a suit. But if the flight is overbooked and we need to upgrade someone, we’ll pick someone who looks like they’ll blend in with those who have paid for their upgrade.”

In the cockpit

“There are always at least two fully qualified pilots in the cockpit at any one time. Stories of the co-pilot miraculously being able to land the aircraft after the captain became sick are just nonsense. Both crew members are trained and checked to exactly the same standards. Normally the captain and first officer will share the flying and the landings equally.”

“Everyone knows that they’re not allowed to use their mobiles, and they know it’s for safety reasons, but you wouldn’t believe how many people sneakily turn them back on. It would just take a handful of people to do this and get a call just before landing to give me a false reading on my instruments telling me we’re higher that we actually are.”

“Everything we tell you is on a need-to-know basis. We’re not going to risk mass hysteria by filling you in about an engine failure, or the fact the plane was just struck by lightning. Even if it’s true.”

“If we tell you to put your seatbelt on, but cabin crew are still on their feet, expect a bit of light bumpiness. If we tell the crew to take their seat, brace yourself for some serious turbulence.”

“We have to go through security just the same as passengers and the same rules apply to us as the passengers. That means shoes and belts off as we go through the X-ray machines and if we forget to remove our water bottles, they'll be confiscated.”

“As a pilot for a low cost airline I very rarely get to see anything of where we've flown into. We're only on the ground for 25 minutes before we fly back, and sometimes I don’t even leave the aircraft.”

“The auto-pilot is a really useful piece of technology in the flight deck but it hasn’t replaced the pilots. Every take-off and nearly every landing is still hand flown – and a good/bad landing is down to the skill of the pilot.”

“When you land earlier than the scheduled time, it’s not because we flew quicker than expected. It’s because the airlines give an under-optimistic predicted flight time so they have a better on-time arrival record.”

In your cabin

“When you’re booked into economy and there’s a queue for the loo, you might think we’re being awkward if we don’t let you into the higher class cabins to use theirs - but we’re the ones who have to deal with passengers unhappy about the fact they’ve paid a lot more for their ticket and are having to share their facilities.”

“The largest amount of complaints we get on board are about inconsiderate passengers – from spreading themselves and their belongings to a neighbour’s seat, to slamming their chair back without checking that the person behind them doesn’t have a laptop, or a child on their lap.”

“There’s always someone that develops an urgent need to get to the toilet as soon as you have a trolley in their path. You can’t wait a few minutes? Really?”

“Don’t sigh or huff and puff at us when we ask you to take out your headphones and stow your laptop for landing. We just want you to be able to hear us in an emergency, and not have a projectile on your lap that could cause someone some serious damage if it hits them on the head at 200 miles an hour.”

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