No matter how many times you fly, there always seem to be more weird and wonderful rules and regulations to be aware of when you next get ready to travel abroad - and everyone seems to have their own take on the proper way to prepare for a flight.
However, how do you know which of these rules are real - and which are simply myths stirred up by the latest Hollywood film or common misconceptions people tend to have about air travel? From films showing people climbing on the outside of planes to an entire movie dedicated to snakes taking over a flight (you know the one!), it’s no wonder that there is a bit of confusion on what exactly is real when it comes to planes.
Although flying is a method of travel millions of people use every single day, there is still a lot of mystery revolving around how exactly planes work, what you’re allowed to take on board with you, and how things work once you’re actually on the plane.
Here, we’re officially de-bunking 25 of the most common airplane myths people still believe - so next time you travel, you’ll know exactly what’s real, and what is simply fantasy!
25 Planes have secret corridors and hiding spaces
Blockbuster thrillers have lead to the myth that most planes have secret corridors and hidden crawl spaces that could be used by smugglers wanting to avoid other passengers and cabin crew onboard a flight.
This is, of course false - there are no hidden spaces on planes that cabin crew can’t access or any secret corridors. The only areas that you may be unaware of are the hidden ‘crew rest’ compartments above or adjacent to passenger areas, which is a section of the plane dedicated to crew for breaks and sleeping, especially on long-haul flights.
24 Carry-on rules are extremely strict
The rules for taking luggage on an aircraft are unlike any other method of travel: liquids over 100mls are forbidden, as are sharp objects, guns, sporting equipment such as baseball bats and ski poles, tools, flammable items, fireworks, and more.
However, while there are strict rules in place for what you can and cannot take on board, the rules aren’t quite as excessive as many people seem to think. For example, you are permitted to take scissors on-board provided the blades are no bigger than 6cm, while fixed razor blades, nail clippers, tweezers, knitting needles, and one lighter are all permitted in your hand luggage.
23 Someone could open the emergency door mid-flight
For some passengers, their biggest nightmare is the fear that someone could attempt to open the emergency exit mid-flight, putting the lives of everyone on-board at risk.
While sitting in the emergency exit aisle is a serious responsibility should an emergency evacuation be necessary, it’s not actually possible to open the door when flying. This is because the cabin becomes pressurized, which means opening the emergency exit door would require a superhuman level of strength. So next time you’re worried about the sanity of the people sitting in the emergency aisle, you can sit back and relax knowing you’re perfectly safe.
22 Keeping your phone on could interfere with the planes
Anyone who has flown before will know the mandatory rule that you need to turn your phone off or put it on ‘airplane mode’ for take-off and landing. Many people put this rule down to your mobile phone having the ability to interfere with the plane’s navigation and signals during these times.
This is a total myth! You are actually required to keep your phone off or on flight mode so that you are paying attention and alert to listen to the cabin crew during the safety talk, and so you are ready to act on any instructions you may need to follow should anything go wrong during take-off or landing.
21 Window shades have to be up during take-off and landing so they don’t affect the plane
The rule to have your window shades and tray tables up and folded away for take-off and landing seems silly to some people, with many passengers believing this is because having your shades down can somehow affect the plane’s ability to fly.
Again, this is a complete myth - you are actually required to keep your window shades up so that, should anything go wrong during take-off or landing, the emergency services can easily identify passengers from the outside, and cabin crew can see outside easier in the same circumstances.
20 Turbulence is dangerous
For many fliers, turbulence is one of the most terrifying things to encounter while on a plane. The way a plane can shake and move up and down during turbulence makes many people believe the plane is in extreme danger of crashing or breaking apart, but this is not the case.
The majority of the time, turbulence is simply an inconvenience rather than a real safety issue, requiring passengers to stay seated and limiting the duties of the cabin crew. While turbulence can feel distressing and unpleasant, the chances of it causing a plane crash are very low.
19 There’s just one captain per flight
Passengers are accustomed to hearing their captain speak overhead at the beginning and end of a flight, so you could be mistaken for thinking that there is just one person on the flight who actually knows how to fly the plane.
This is another myth, as every flight has two fully-trained pilots: the captain and the first officer. In the event of the incapacitation of the captain, the first-officer will take over all responsibilities for the flight. However, in general, the captain is mainly responsible for the aircraft and all passengers, although the first officer will always be present.
18 Alcohol will go to your head quicker
When jetting off for a vacation, many people like to indulge in a few alcoholic drinks on the flight to really kick-start a holiday. What’s more, many people think that being at such a high elevation actually makes it easier to get tipsy from alcohol while flying than it is when on the ground.
Again, this is a complete myth. However, it is easier to become dehydrated when flying, which can make you feel the effects of alcohol even faster - so remember to drink lots of water if you want to avoid feeling nauseous and over-tired when you land.
17 Smaller planes are more dangerous than large planes
You may look at tiny private jets compared to mammoth commercial airplanes and immediately assume that those little jets are more at risk when battling turbulence and poor weather conditions in the air, but this isn’t necessarily true.
In fact, small planes are just as safe as commercial jets - and it’s more important that you have a skilled pilot in the cockpit than having a bigger plane to keep you safe in the skies.
16 Cabin air recycles people’s germs and makes you sick
Many passengers believe that air is recycled during a flight, resulting in the germs and bacteria of other passengers being spread around the aircraft for anyone and everyone to catch. More than a few people will leave a flight believing they’ve caught a bug from it!
However, the oxygen on flights is actually filtered before being redistributed, catching between 94 and 99.9 percent of airborne microbes, so it’s unlikely that you’ll be catching any germs via the air supply on your flight. It is worth being cautious of bacteria on surfaces such as your tray table, however, as these could still harbour germs.
15 Planes are mainly flown via autopilot
There is a common perception that aside from taking off and landing, planes mostly fly via autopilot. However, that’s not actually the case.
Autopilot serves as an advanced GPS, providing input regarding direction and positioning, but it is not capable of flying a plane independently. Rather, autopilot helps pilots avoid the fatigue they would get by having to be constantly aware of their flight path and all the information that goes with it. Pilots go through years of training to be qualified to fly a commercial plane, so they’re the ones in charge of your flight when they sit in the cockpit - the autopilot just helps!
14 The holes in airplane windows could suck you out
Have you ever sat down on a plane and wondered what those little holes in your window are for? A common myth is that if you get too close to those holes, you could actually get sucked right out of them!
Absurd as this sounds, it’s something that a lot of people believe - so rest assured that it is completely false. The holes are actually there for a reason, to allow pressure to equilibrate between the cabin and the gap between the window panes so that cabin pressure during the flight is only applied to the outer pane.
13 A small hole in a plane could cause the plane to completely fail
For many people, a hole forming in your plane could be the most terrifying thing to happen mid-flight, with many people thinking that a hole in your plane could cause the cabin to depressurize and crash.
Thankfully, this isn’t the case at all. While large holes in the plane’s fuselage can be very dangerous, a small hole shouldn’t be a problem. Once cabin pressure is released, the plane should be safe to perform an emergency landing without any major disasters.
12 Cabin crew tidy the whole plane after landing
If you’re guilty of leaving your rubbish in your seat pocket during a flight and not handing it over to your air stewardess when they come down the aisle with bin bags, it’s time to rethink your habits.
After a flight, cabin crew won’t always do a thorough clean of the flight before another flight starts boarding - planes are usually one deep-cleaned once per day, so putting your rubbish in the waste bags provided will help everyone concerned.
11 Wearing your seatbelt can hurt your chances of surviving a crash
Many people think that wearing your seatbelt on the plane could actually hinder your chances of surviving a plane crash - for example, making it slower for them to evacuate in an emergency.
However, the seatbelt signs are there for a reason, and your seatbelt will do a lot more good than harm when flying. For example, in the event of an emergency, not wearing your seatbelt could cause you to be thrown out of your seat, putting you or other passengers at risk - so get yourself strapped in.
10 The plane toilet empties waste mid-flight
Despite what you may think, plane toilets are not designed to simply empty into mid-air when you flush them.
In fact, waste travels through pipes to be stored in a tank at the back of the plane, which can only be accessed from the exterior of the plane. So rest assured that it’s completely impossible for the pilot to empty waste from the tank while flying, and if you do get hit by something suspicious on the ground, it’s most likely from a bird!
9 You could get stuck on the toilet
Some people believe that you could get stuck on the toilet on a plane, or worse, get sucked into it!
The reality is that the only way you could possibly get stuck on the toilet is if your body forms a perfect seal on the toilet, essentially creating a vacuum. As engineers design airplane toilets to be virtually impossible to create a perfect seal on, it’s highly unlikely you would ever get stuck on the toilet - although it wouldn’t hurt to stand up before you flush the toilet to be sure.
8 Oxygen masks don’t actually have oxygen in them
The 1999 film Fight Club is largely to blame for the myth that oxygen masks are actually decoys designed to keep passengers calm in the event of a plane crash rather than supplying oxygen when needed.
This is untrue - if a cabin loses pressure at 30,000 feet, oxygen levels will be very low for people to breathe, so oxygen masks are required until the plane can be brought down to a safer level (approximately 10,000 feet).
7 Lightning storms could bring a plane down
For people that are nervous about flying, a lightning storm can be an extremely scary thing to experience. Many people falsely believe that a lightning strike can actually be a cause for a flight to become unstable and even crash.
In fact, lightning strikes are actually very common for planes, which are often hit on an extremity such as the wing tip or nose with the current then leaving from another point. Airplanes are designed for this occurrence with the space inside the metal protected from electric currents to keep passengers safe.
6 Plane crashes are quite common
Of course, a plane crash is the worst-case scenario for anyone getting on a plane, but the myth here is that many people believe that the chances of getting in a plane crash every time they board a plane are quite high.
Despite what Hollywood movies may have you believe, flying is actually one of the safest methods of transportation, safer even than driving. So while plane crashes do happen, you’re normally very safe when flying.
5 Pilots have parachutes for emergencies
Despite what some people think, pilots do not, in fact, carry parachutes for emergencies - and even if they did, they couldn’t just leave mid-flight!
A pilot's first responsibility is for their passengers and their crew, so in the case of an emergency, you can rest assured that your highly-trained pilot will be there to guide you through it rather than abandoning your flight with their parachute!
4 Losing an engine will cause a plane crash
No one would blame you for fearing the worst if one of your plane’s engines failed mid-flight, and indeed, many people think this scenario would cause a plane crash.
In fact, even if a plane lost function in both engines, it would still be able to glide for a significant distance to enable it to perform an emergency landing. Pilots are trained on how to handle an engine failure even during take-off, and can safely fly a plane with just one engine.
3 Planes deliberately have lower levels of oxygen to make passengers more complacent
There is a myth floating around that pilots deliberately circulate less oxygen through the plane in order to keep passengers more complacent on flights.
This is a total myth - pilots breathe the same air as passengers on a flight, so lowering the levels of oxygen onboard wouldn’t be the best idea! What’s more, oxygen levels are determined by pressurization - pilots don’t have direct control over this element.
2 All planes avoid the Bermuda Triangle
The Bermuda Triangle is an area of the Atlantic Ocean when many ships have sunk or disappeared without a trace, and many people believe that flights deliberately avoid this area in case they have the same fate.
Airplanes do not actually avoid this area at all, however, which is largely mythical in itself. In fact, there are regular flights to the Bahamas that cut right across where the Bermuda Triangle is fabled to be - so this is one myth that has definitely been debunked.
1 Being born on a plane gives you free air travel for life
When a premature baby was born on a flight from Saudi Arabia to India in 2017 and was given unlimited free flights for life, many people assumed that this was a given for any baby born on a plane when in fact, it’s very rare.
Several airlines have since said that they would not give air-born babies free flights for life, with few other instances of free flights for life being granted for any other babies born mid-flight. Since many airlines restricting air travel after 36 weeks of pregnancy anyway, the chances of this happening are fairly rare regardless.
Sources: businessinsider.com, rd.com