10 Dirty Facts About Flying Airlines Don’t Want You to Know

There's no option three, so choose wisely, because some of these airline worst practices can't be unseen.

If you’re a frequent flyer, there are two approaches to this list of airline secrets you may or may not want to know:

1. Ignore it and carry on in your blissful ignorance of duct tape holding the wing of your aircraft together while flying. Or

2. Read about the awful things that happen on commercial flights, and go in armed with the knowledge of how awful the flight you’re on really is (but possibly avoid dysentery). There’s no option three, so choose wisely, because some of these airline worst practices can’t be unseen.

1. The Toilets Can Be Unlocked from the Outside
This is more of a “Charlie from ‘Lost’ getting cranked on heroin” precaution than a “People in row 23 joining the mile-high club” fail-safe, but the fact remains that occupied does not mean you’re free from the possibility of interruption.
2. Pilots Get Served Different Meals in Case of Food Poisoning
Likely the same meals you’re being offered, so hope you chose the same meal as the pilot who continues at the helm during the other’s bout of food poisoning.
3. Pilots Routinely Nod Off During Long Flights
While nap breaks are scheduled so one pilot can rest while the other commands a plane once it’s at cruising altitude, most pilots (more than 50% according to this survey) have involuntarily nodded off while in the cockpit.
4. If You Use the Oxygen Bags for More Than 15 Minutes, You’re Gonna Have a Bad Time
The oxygen masks on planes only supply 15-20 minutes of oxygen. The theory is that the pilots will descend to a height of normal cabin pressurization as soon as an issue is noted.
5. Guidelines Exist for the Amount of Screws a Plane Is Allowed to Fly Without
Seems you’d prefer to have zero screws missing, but apparently there’s a threshold of acceptable missing screws on the plane.
6. The Emergency Door Handles Are There So Flight Attendants Aren’t Pushed Out
People go nutty whenever there’s a situation involving an emergency exit, and the poor flight attendants – who are trying to get you out safely – are often disregarded like limits on carry-on baggage, necessitating the plane’s version of “Oh Sh*t” bars.
7. Some Airline Employees Don’t Get Paid Until the Flight’s in the Air
Why is this scary for you? Let’s say a pilot, flight attendant, or other airline employee notices something off about the plane (torn carpet, a toilet issue, a possible technical issue) they consider negligible, they may fail to report the condition in case it causes the flight to be substantially delayed or even cancelled.
8. Plane Water Is Disgusting And Possibly Poop-Filled
A test of tap waters from various airlines, performed by the Wall Street Journal in 2002, found bacteria levels in spigot water to be as much as 100x the allowed limit in the US.
9. Somebody Has Probably Changed a Diaper On Your Tray Table
Why bother going to the bathroom to remove your child’s sodden diaper when you could loose it on a small table that most people eat their food on?
10. People Steal the Under-Seat Life Jackets
Somewhere, in a Midwest frat house, is the life jacket you should be using in case of emergency.