It’s fair to say that modern air travel is a long way off the Catch Me If You Can glamour of bygone years.
Nowadays, we count ourselves lucky if we aren’t hit with a penalty fee for extra baggage – or we flip our table down and it actually happens to be clean.
Still, there are things that go down in the 24/7 world of airlines that the crew would rather we didn’t know about. Even with our limited expectations, these little-known facts wouldn’t be conductive to good PR.
Here are three less-than-palatable truisms about flying that those in the know – including pilots, aviation experts, travel agents and airline crew – have shared:
Morning flights are better
“One of the things that pilots won’t tell you, is that morning flights are better because the air is less bumpy,” writes tour operator Anya Mary. “Obviously, the airline wants you to book at any time of the day.”
Also, if you fly early in the morning, the ground hasn’t had a chance to heat up yet – so thunderstorms are less likely, as they mostly happen in the afternoon once warm air has risen.
If you’re a particularly nervous flyer, you should aim to get a seat over or near the plane wing. While no seat is technically safer than any other on an aircraft, its layout is like a see-saw.
Turbulence hits hardest at the back, while the middle area doesn’t move as much and makes for a smoother journey.
The tap water is dirty
Plane water regularly fails environmental standard checks, and this is because the ports to empty the toilets and refill drinking water are near each other – so they can easily cross-contaminate when serviced at the same time.
“When you want to quench your thirst on a plane, make sure the water you get comes from a bottle,” writes aviation expert Saran Udayakumar. “There's a strong likelihood you'll get some pretty bad stuff inside if it was obtained from the tap.”
This is the same reason why anonymous flight attendants recommend that you don’t drink coffee or tea on-board.
Pilots may sleep in the cockpit
Since most mechanisms are automated on an aeroplane, it’s not unknown for pilots to grab forty winks between takeoff and landing – often it’s just a 10 minute nap and is no cause for undue alarm.
Because of their demanding schedules, flight crew are often exhausted in any case.
“We don't tell you that we got no sleep and we're flying this plane half-awake because we don't want to scare you,” says an experienced captain known as Hari Sanil.
“Next time you disembark, give the pilots or the flight attendants a wave, or even better - a thank you.”