Thursday, March 2, 2006

Airline Myths and Legends

Airplane Landing Caribbean

James Wysong is apparently a fully employed flight attendant at some American airline which hasn't recently descended into bankruptcy, and so has the time and money to blog about his experiences, including this recent hilarious missive about airline myths and legends.

James, grow a beard or goatee, or put a tattoo of some screaming, naked babe on your forehead, but please do something about your photo on your blog. It's pitiful. See my stupid blog author photo for some inspiration.

Have you ever heard an airplane story that has been passed down from year to year, only to realize when you hear it a second time that it has changed in some way? Who starts these stories? Are they true?

I have been in the airline business for many years and I hear the same stories over and over. I can't tell you positively if they are true or false, but I can give you some opinions on their probability. Take a look at these myths and legends, for instance.

Legend. An extremely large female passenger on a trans-Atlantic flight finds herself sealed to the toilet after she flushes it. It takes three mechanics on the ground to free her.

Reality check. False. Yes, airplane toilets have very powerful suction, but when the seat is down (as I assume it would be when she sat down), there is a small gap between the seat and the toilet that prevents an airtight seal from forming. I once put this story to the test by creating an airtight seal, then flushing the toilet. Yes, there was a lot of force, but after the flush cycle the pressure was released, so our robust passenger would be free to go.

Addendum. I once tried stringing a line of toilet paper from the back lavatory to the front of the airplane, then flushing the toilet. Sure enough, the string of toilet paper got sucked out in one piece. (No, I guess I didnĂ‚’t have anything better to do with my time.)

Myth. The "Mile High Club" is so enticing because the sexual climax is 10 times more intense on an airplane due to the altitude and the cabin pressure.

Reality check. False. It's just the excitement of doing it in a bizarre place and maybe getting caught - or so I am told. With the deplorable state of most airplane lavatories these days, I am barely able to raise a smile much less anything else. Or is that just age talking?

Legend. A white passenger on a British Airways flight from Johannesburg objects to being seated next to a black man and asks for another seat. The flight attendant says she'll see what she can do. She returns to say there is a seat available in first class and that the captain has approved an upgrade because he feels that no one should have to sit next to such an offensive person. The flight attendant then turns to the black man and invites him to the first class seat, to the cheers and applause of other passengers.

Reality check. I don't know if this is true, but I will tell you that I have upgraded passengers sitting next to obnoxious neighbors quite a few times.

Myth. You are more likely to get sick when flying because the airplane's circulation system spreads viruses.

Reality check. Actually, airplane air is quite healthy because it is run through HEPA air filters, which can catch up to 99.9% of small bacteria and viruses - even SARS and the bird flu virus. The real culprit is more likely to be that guy in the next seat who sneezed on you.

Legend. A Pan Am flight attendant working in first class has to deny a meal choice to a celebrity passenger. Indignant and upset, the celebrity launches into a temper tantrum. "Do you know who I am?" the passenger repeatedly exclaims. The flight attendant quickly gets on the passenger address system and announces, "Ladies and gentlemen, we have a passenger who does not know who he is. If anyone can help us with this information it would be greatly appreciated."

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