On the aircraft
Things to keep in mind, even if you've been on an aircraft hundreds of times.
Safety on the tarmac
The embarking and disembarking of passengers with aircraft engines running increases the potential of a propeller or jet blast related incident. Passengers should take note of:
- Where the propellers are in relation to the door. Take careful note of this in the dark as propellers can be difficult to see at night.
- Look carefully for other aeroplanes with engines running. You may not hear another aircraft engine over the noise of the aircraft you are using.
- Be aware of jet blasts from aircraft turning or moving on the tarmac.
Even stationary propellers can be dangerous. A propeller could turn unexpectedly as a result of accidental activation of the starter motor.
The blast from a jet turning on the tarmac, without even revving it's engine, has the ability to lift a truck, turn it over and dump it, or blow over a tanker. The power of the engine is enough, even at low throttle, to raise sheets of iron off roofs. Imagine what it could do to you or your child.
If you must embark or disembark from the tarmac, make sure you are clear on the safest route to take. Ensure you keep an eye on any children in your care. For your own safety, and for the safety of your family, it is very important that you follow the instructions of the airline staff.
The information passed on during the preflight briefing may seem repetitive. There are reasons the flight attendants ensure this information is imparted to the passengers on every flight. Every aircraft is different, so it is important to listen for the following:
Keep your seatbelt fastened at all times. The seatbelt should be secured snugly and low across the hips. This provides the extra protection you might need if the plane hits unexpected turbulence. Most passengers injured as a result of turbulence did not have their seatbelts fastened. See our section on turbulence.
Exit row seating
There are certain responsibilities attached to sitting in the row next to an emergency exit. In the event of an accident you are responsible for opening the exit. Ensure you listen carefully to the safety briefing, study the instructions and ask questions if you are unclear on anything. If you don't think you can do it ask to be moved. See our section on seating.
The location of the emergency exits in relation to your seat allocation differs depending on the particular aircraft you are flying on. Take note of how many seats between you and the two nearest exits. In the unlikely event of an emergency this will allow you to follow the instructions of the flight attendants and flight crew, and exit the aircraft as quickly as possible. Don't forget, your nearest exit may be behind you.
You need to know how to use your life jacket, even if it seems you are only flying over land. In Australia all major airports are located near the ocean, and aircraft are often required to fly over water in order to land or if placed in a holding pattern.
Aircraft cabins are pressurised between 5,000 and 8,000 feet above sea level. As a result there is less oxygen available and gas in the body expands. This is usually well tolerated by healthy passengers.
Less oxygen is absorbed into the blood and circulated throughout the body due to a decrease in air density with increased altitude. This increases the effect of alcohol (ie. dizziness, fainting and unruly behaviour.) Passengers with heart, lung and blood conditions may not tolerate lower amounts of oxygen. If in doubt, consult your health care provider before booking your flight.
If there is ear or sinus discomfort, swallowing, chewing or yawning will encourage air to flow out of and into the middle ear and sinuses. Give something to drink to young children or a pacifier to infants. This is why it is important to stay awake during descent. The American Academy of Otolaryngology - Ears, Altitude and Airplane Travel provides information on why this happens and how to make your flight more enjoyable.
Most adverse effects of alcohol are associated with the brain, the eyes, and the inner ear. Effects on the brain include impaired reaction time, reasoning, judgment, and memory. Alcohol also decreases the ability of the brain to make use of oxygen. Alcohol has a greater effect on the human body at altitude than on the ground.
It is an offence to enter an aircraft whilst drunk or to be drunk on an aircraft. If you drink too much alcohol before a flight the airline will refuse to let you board the aircraft. The only alcohol you may consume on board an aircraft is that which is provided by the cabin crew. You are not permitted to consume your own alcohol once you have boarded the aircraft.
For more information regarding this subject, see our section on unruly passengers.