It’s usually the flight home, still wearing your shorts and flip flops, you notice how remarkably cold planes can be. No, it’s not a considerate attempt by the airline to help passengers reacclimatise to the awaiting chill of Blighty’s drizzle. But instead a regulated effort to ensure maximum comfort throughout the cabin.
Aircraft temperatures are generally kept at between 22°C and 24°C. About the same air temperature maintained in most office environments, with the extremes of the range reaching 18°C and 27°C. Such temperatures might seem reasonable, but it is important to bear in mind that passengers rarely move when flying so work up little body heat of their own, hence the overwhelming sense of coldness.
The study found that people tend to faint more easily while flying due to a medical condition called Hypoxia, where your body tissue suffers from a lack of oxygen. It’s a condition said to be common among airline passengers.
The study also found that high cabin pressure and warm temperatures can further trigger the condition. So to play it safe, the study suggests that airlines keep the temperatures cool to prevent people from fainting while flying in the air.
While some people will be totally fine in a little fiery furnace of warmth, others won’t, and airlines would rather not take the risk. Basically, they’d rather they had a few grumpy, frozen passengers than a few unconscious ones.
This study isn’t new, but it’s brand new information to us. So we’ll keep it in mind next time we’re about to moan that our fingers have lost sensation on a Boeing 747.
Patrick Smith, author of Cockpit Confidential and pilot, writes: “If passengers have one very legitimate gripe, it’s about dryness. Indeed, the typical cabin is exceptionally dry and dehydrating. At around 12 per cent humidity, it is drier than you will find in most deserts. “This is chiefly a by-product of cruising at high-altitudes, where moisture content is somewhere between low and nonexistent.”