Whether you want more attentive service or avoid getting kicked off the plane, here are 14 little-known facts about airlines, directly from employees.
Annette Long, a flight attendant with 13 years of experience, confides that while opening a door mid-flight is impossible to do, merely trying will get you in trouble. As we have seen in previous such incidents, the passenger who tries while the plane is still in the air is usually restrained and in handcuffs once the plane lands. In some cases, pilots will perform an emergency landing to evacuate the passenger from the aircraft.
'I don't make these decisions,' Long said. 'I relay the information to the cockpit and to my manager, and they make the decision on whether or not we should land and evacuate the person from the plane.'
'Most pilots tell us: 'If you have a problem with them, I have a problem with them,' and they are 100% backing us,' says Long.
Microbiologists have found tablets to be the least hygienic surfaces on the plane.
As a flight attendant writes on Reddit, people change their babies' nappies on the shelves all the time. And not all tablets are meticulously cleaned between each flight.
Plus, 'remember they use a rag to clean from row one, and by the time they get to row 35 the rag has already wiped a lot of shelves,' Long says.
The flight attendant writing on Reddit also says that many unhygienic incidents happen on the plane that passengers rarely see or take into account, such as accidents in the toilet or in the passenger seat. 'Just so you know, when you go to the bathroom and you're barefoot or in socks, it's not water on the floor,' Long said.
'It's just not the cleanest environment,' she says.
Some items with a risk of explosion have been banned from air planes in recent years, but not all of them.
Last March, a Delta Air Lines flight had been delayed at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport after an electronic cigarette belonging to a passenger caught fire on board.
But while the lithium ion batteries of electronic cigarettes showed a tendency to catch fire if damaged, electronic cigarettes powered by portable electronic batteries are permitted on flights as long as they are not controlled or used.
For your explosive Galaxy Note 7, however, that's a whole different story. These smart phones have been completely banned by the Department of Transportation of air travel, to or from the United States.
In response to the Quora question: 'What are the strangest things air plane crew members have observed on the job?' Heather Wilde, former flight attendant, quoted the people who made soup using the water on board. 'You have to know that the pipes have never been cleaned—ever,' she says.
'Crew members will never drink hot water on the plane. They don't drink coffee or tea,' another crew member tells Business Insider.
The EPA has found that one in eight planes does not meet the agency's standard water safety requirements and that 15% of water systems tested on board potentially contain harmful bacteria, Business Insider reports.
Airplane crew report that they are only paid for flight hours, not for boarding and disembarking. 'So, for example, your workday might be 12 hours, but you will only be paid for six hours of work,' says a crew member.
This means that the job is not as lucrative.
'When I first started flying ten years ago, I was on food stamps,' says Madeleine Doyle, a 20-year flight attendant who worked two 10-year shifts on the national and international flights, on Thrillist.
'The entry-level salary is appalling. The new ones starting today are broke and live at 24 in a flat,' Doyle says.
Additionally, crew members are not covered if they injure themselves while trying to put your bags in the overhead compartments. And since having no job or money is no fun, you shouldn't expect your flight attendant to take that risk for you.
Former airport customer service agent Travis O'Neal writes on Quora: 'As a general rule, the later in the day you travel, the more likely you are to be late.'
'According to my training, the emergency exit flaps must be raised because the crew members must be able to assess the conditions outside before opening the door. If there's a fire or deep water, or rocks outside, it wouldn't be safe for us to go there, and we have to be able to assess that quickly,' Long said.
Ramp and gate officer, Thomas Lo Sciuto writes on Quora that your best option to have your baggage first during baggage claim is to be one of the last passengers to check your baggage.
He writes that:
'Luggage will always be loaded from front to back on the luggage carts because more weight has to be put on the front carts for driving stability, and if you load them from rear to rear, you cannot be sure that the front cart will be completely full.'
'So if you check in last, your bags will be in the last baggage cart, making them last on board and first out when you get to your destination. If they are the first pieces of luggage to come out, they will probably be the first on the cart, and therefore the first to be unloaded on the luggage belt.'
'The best way to make sure your luggage gets to you as quickly as possible is to ask the agent at the counter as kindly as possible if he can let you check your baggage at the boarding gate. The disadvantage of this method is that you will not be able to put liquids in it or any other item that could not fit in a hand luggage since you will have to take the luggage with you at the security check and at the boarding door.'
'Some people buy alcohol and bring their little bottles on the plane,' says Long. 'We always know who they are; we always spot them.'
'You cannot serve yourself,' she explains. 'We need to know how much you have drunk so as not to over serve yourself, because the higher you fly, the more alcohol affects your brain.'
In 2014, a passenger on a China Eastern Airlines plane who said he wanted to 'get off the plane faster,' deployed the emergency slide after the plane landed at Sanya Phoenix International Airport. The incident caused a two-hour delay and reportedly cost approximately £11,600 in damages.
Last April, a member of the United Airlines crew did the same error, costing the airline between £4,300 and £8,700 just to repack the slide in its container.
Long says no one has ever officially 'died' on a flight. 'We don't pronounce them dead,' she explains—this only happens once the plane lands. But that doesn't mean that other actions aren't taken when you can't do anything medically.
Long says that while luckily she wasn't in this situation, if a passenger were to die during a flight, she would likely leave them in her seat. 'I would probably put a blanket on her to avoid prying eyes. You need to maintain some semblance of dignity and respect for the deceased. You don't want everyone to be staring. It would be really sad,' she said.
It would appear that there are no universal rules regarding the procedure to be followed when a passenger dies. According to Quartz, the International Air Transport Association which represents most of the world's airlines, advises the flight crew to move the deceased passenger to a seat with few passengers around. If possible, the crew can move the corpse to first class. Or in the rare case that there is one, it can be moved to a compartment called the 'body cupboard.' If there is no seat available, the deceased will likely stay in their seat.
Whether you fly first class or economy class, with some airlines like United, American, and Delta Air Lines there is always a rudimentary dress code. For example the shoes. You have to wear them.
The New York Times also reports that United takes a dim view of people who 'are not dressed properly,' while American could deny access to certain people 'dressed in a way that could embarrass or offend other passengers.'
And if you want to go first class, even though other considerations will be taken into account first such as being a frequent passenger, it's still a better idea to look respectable. As a crew member with three years of experience explains:
'I think it's great that we don't have to travel in suits and high heels any more. You can be comfortable. But you can also be stylish and comfortable. Check the airline rules—sometimes there is still a dress code in first class and, who knows, maybe the miracle of the day is that you will be upgraded to first class for less. Make yourself comfortable, but if you can avoid wearing your pyjamas that would be great.'
Recently, Korean Air has 'relaxed' its policy of using tasers on board the aircraft, CNN reports.
'We have decided to improve our conditions and the procedure for using tasers to deal with violent acts and disruptions on board in a quick and efficient manner,' Korean Air wrote in a statement to Reuters.
As can attest Ben Zhang, transport reporter, it is not specified how the airline will apply the new procedure or how it will take effect.
However, according to Reuters, before this update, the equipment was allowed for use only in situations where the lives of passengers and crew were in danger or if the safety of the flight was threatened.
This policy is implemented to give more leeway to the crew in their decision to use the tasers, Zhang reports.
Policy change comes a week following viral criticism targeting Korean Air for its handling of a turbulent passenger on a flight from Hanoi in Vietnam to Seoul.
On December 20, 1980s pop star Richard Marx stepped in to help the Korean Air crew subdue a physically aggressive passenger. On Twitter, Marx criticized the team for being 'ill-equipped to handle the situation.' In an Instagram post, Marx's wife, former MTV VJ, Daisy Fuentes, who was also on board the flight, accused the crew of not knowing how to use the tasers on board.
As Annie Kingston, a flight attendant of four years, writes for Oyster:
'Although most passengers choose seats in the front of the plane so that they can get off first and have a better chance of having their preferred meal option, the crew know that if you are seated at the back, you will receive more attentive service.'
'The reason is simple: we prefer to avoid answering calls from the front of the plane as this might require us to show the item the passenger has requested to everyone. This can be a concern as planes often don't have extra vodka, cushions, earplugs, and toothbrushes, or because we don't have time on shorter flights to overflow the service schedule.'
'For those passengers who are seated towards the back of the plane, however, it is much easier to pass that second small bottle of wine.'