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July 10, 2011

Why Don't The Airlines Tell Us The Truth?

Have you ever wondered if the airlines are telling you the truth about the safety of air travel?  Well, me too!
SEATING:    Ever wonder why seats face forward in the plane?  Is it because we like to watch what’s going on in first class?  Actually, research shows that rear-facing seats are much safer in the event of an emergency.  Just ask the military, which fits seats on its transport planes facing the rear.
SEATBELTS:     We’re asked to keep them fastened whenever we’re seated in the event of “bumpy air”. The better term to use would be “clear air turbulence” when, unexpectedly, the plane plummets hundreds of feet sending everything… including untethered passengers, food service carts and laptops… hurling upward. It happens with some frequency.  Better give that belt an extra tug.
LIFE JACKETS:      Yes, we know they’re under the seat.  But they claim they’re only for use in a “water landing”.  Mind you, the 2009 “Miracle on the Hudson” landing of an A-320 was just that, a miracle.  Planes don’t float.  So don’t sweat the life jacket or the detachable slides which supposedly double as rafts.  Bring a snorkel.
EVACUATIONS:     To be certified by the FAA, aircraft must prove they can be completely evacuated in 90 seconds.  The aircraft manufacturers cheat a bit in passing this test, using employee families and friends in trials where everyone knows what will happen and have an obvious interest in getting the plane OK’ed.  You know how long it takes to board an aircraft.  Can you imagine 900 people racing for the exits on the new double-decked A-380 and getting off the craft in a minute and a half?  Next time they do the pre-flight check, pay attention.  Know where the emergency exits are. You may need to get off that plane fast!
CELLPHONES:       Turn ‘em all off.  Blackberries, too.  We’re told they interfere with aircraft navigation and communication.  Seems logical, until you hear that several European carriers are soon to offer in-flight cellphone use… for a fee.  The truth is cellphones don’t interfere with aircraft as much as they do with the ground network.
IN-FLIGHT SNACKS:        Though meals are a rarity these days on anything but long-haul flights, beverages and snacks are still available.  Not for nutrition, mind you, but mostly for amusement.  And the airlines actually push the booze to keep passengers somewhat sedated.  Cynics even suggest that airlines turn down the cabin air recirculation a notch or two to make passengers drowsy and keep them in their seats, out of the way of flight crews. 
SAFETY:      Yes, your checked luggage is screened before being loaded.  But 99% of the cargo being carried in the plane’s belly is not.  The TSA relies on the air carriers, not screenings, to be sure bombs stay off of planes.  So a terrorist can’t travel with a bomb, but he can easily ship one instead.  Feel safer?
LIQUIDS:      The 2006 terror scare left millions of us dehydrated as we were forced to leave our water bottles landside.  Later, those rules were relaxed a bit.  We can buy beverages after clearing security (“Wow… water for only $1.89!”).  But the real explosives… perfumes and duty-free booze… are still allowed on.  Go figure.
I hate to sound like a grouch, but flying is no fun anymore.  It’s neither glamorous nor safe.  And having the airlines be less than honest with us doesn’t help.

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