• Answered: Curious questions about air travel

    CWT Savvy Traveler
    There are two kinds of questions we ask: the kind we need answers to, and the kind we simply wonder about. Do you ever have those kind of curious questions about air travel? For example, have you ever wondered, “Why do airplanes still have ashtrays?” or “Who thought of Sky Mall?”

    Mental Floss columnist Kara Kovalchik wrote a piece on, “7 Burning Questions About Air Travel”—addressing some of the most common curiosities a lot of us have when we fly. Read on for a couple of our favorite snippets, or follow the hyperlink beneath this piece to read her full article on MentalFloss.com.

    Why must your seat be returned to the upright position?

    Not only that, but why must your purse go under the seat? Why does the tray table need to go up? And, most importantly, why can’t I use the bathroom? Kara explains:

    “. . . These instructions pertain specifically to the period during which the aircraft is either taking off or landing. Should an emergency occur during either of these times, passengers often have a good chance of survival if they evacuate the plane immediately. Milliseconds count in these situations, so passengers are naturally in a rush when finding their way to an emergency exit . . . Reclined seats, extended table trays and briefcases in the aisle will cause already panicked folks to stumble and fall and hamper the evacuation process.”

    Where do airport codes come from?

    The International Air Transport Association currently determines codes for airports around the world, and while some IATA airport codes are obvious (like MSP for Minneapolis/St. Paul), codes like Chicago’s ORD or New Orleans’ MSY are a bit more puzzling. Kara attributes this to the history of those airports:

    “The names become less mysterious if you know some history about the airports. For example, before Chicago’s airport was named after Butch O’Hare, it was called Orchard Airport. New Orleans’ code is derived from the property’s original purpose—Moisant Stock Yards. The FAA began to issue three-letter identifying codes to airports back in the early 1930s. The oldest airports were simply designated by their official weather station code, with the letter “X” added to the end. So the Los Angeles Airport became LAX, Phoenix was PHX, and so on.”

    There are also additional factors that go into the codes, such as the name of the airport itself, clever ways to avoid repetition, the retirement of codes if an airport moves or closes, and the reservation of certain letters for military codes and radio call signs. In a world of thousands of airports, there’s a good story and explanation behind each one.

    Read Kara’s full article on MentalFloss.com here.

    Safe Travels,


One Responseso far.

  1. Dominique Betancourt dominique says:

    I’ve always wondered about the boarding of people on the plane and the methodology behind it. Each airline does it differently, so which one is right and why?