5 Frequent Airline Questions
THERE are some things one invariably wonders when waiting for a plane to take off. Is the air vent above my head blowing someone’s flu into my face? If I neglect to turn off my cellphone, will I really endanger the plane? If I knock back a cocktail at 30,000 feet, will it knock me out? Plagued by these and other aviation questions I called government officials and medical doctors for answers. Here’s what the experts had to say about five common travel nightmares.
#1 Should I Wear Sunscreen on the Plane?
Windows on planes don’t block UVA rays, which are associated with wrinkling, skin aging and skin cancer. And a higher altitude means stronger ultraviolet rays. Dr. Spencer, a member of the board of directors of the American Academy of Dermatology said: “I think the bigger one that people don’t realize is their car, because they spend so much more time in their car.” Bottom line: Whatever your regular mode of transportation, bring the sunscreen.
#2 Are Cocktails More Potent at High Altitudes?
For some people, ordering a cocktail on a long flight can be a delightful way to unwind, but there are reasons to think twice before you drink. Dr. Linda C. Degutis, the director of the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, said that the air inside a plane cabin tends to have a humidity level of 10 to 20 percent, which is lower than the typical indoor humidity level of 30 to 65 percent — so passengers are more likely to become dehydrated.
#3 Are Checked Bags Often Lost or Damaged?
Not as often as you might think. The U.S.A Department of Transportation’s Air Travel Consumer Report includes a “mishandled baggage rate,” which Bill Mosley, a spokesman for the department, said combines lost, delayed, damaged and stolen bags. In May 2014, there were 2.77 reports per 1,000 passengers. That’s better than the same period a year ago, when there were 3.54 reports per 1,000 passengers.
#4 Is the Air Vent Making You Sick?
The expert consensus is that you’re more likely to get sick from a sneezing seatmate or from touching the bathroom sink than from recirculated cabin air. The cabin air is mixed with outside air and recirculated air, and most new-model planes pass the recirculated air through high-efficiency particulate air filters meant to capture 99.9 percent of tiny particles like bacteria and fungi. Boeing explains that “essentially no microorganism can pass through the high efficiency filters in the air recirculation system on today’s jets.”
#5 Can Portable Electronic Devices Harm the Plane?
It comes down to this: better safe than sorry. The US Federal Aviation Administration says there are still unknowns about how the radio signals that personal electronic devices (including cellphones) give off might affect aircraft communications, navigation and flight control. Cellphone use, which sends out strong signals, is banned by the Federal Communications Commission because of its potential to disrupt wireless networks on the ground.
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