When you’re traveling on an airplane, you probably try your hardest to avoid eye contact with anyone. Smile at the flight attendant when you board and give a nod to the stranger next to you when you first sit down, but other than that it’s all hiding behind a sleep mask or a good book. But some experts fear that, even if you’re keeping to yourself, someone else’s eyes might be on you—and they may not even be on the plane. Recently, passengers on Singapore Airlines and American Airlines flights noticed something odd about the in-flight entertainment screens in front of them: They had cameras underneath, leading to the concern that the airlines were spying on their passengers.
For now, you can breathe easy—the TVs came ready-equipped with the cameras, and the airlines insist they have never turned them on and have no intention to in the future. And while Singapore and American have been the two to get the most attention for the cameras, the recording devices seem to be fairly standard: There are (inactive) cameras on Qantas, United, and Emirates flights. The idea is that in the future, airlines might want to use cameras and microphones for features like seat-to-seat video conferencing. Until then, the cameras are sitting unused (and unusable without new software in some cases). Still, the cameras making news has people wary about secrets airlines don’t want to tell you.
15 crazy requests people have made on airplanes
15 crazy requests people have made on airplanes
'How you roll down the window?'
As much as we might like them to, cars do not fly. And yet some people seem convinced that cars and metal contraptions flying 35,000 feet in the air function exactly the same way. Many a flight attendant has had to break the news to a passenger that plane windows can not be opened. Doing so would send the temperature inside the plane plummeting to frostbite inducing-levels, endangering everyone on board. Why the passengers want the window open in the first place is a mystery to us—it's already cold enough on airplanes. (Here's the reason airplanes tend to be so chilly.)
'I forgot something. Can you turn the plane around?'
Yes, it's incredibly frustrating to forget an item at home, especially when you're embarking on a long trip. But considering that you're not the only one on the plane, the fact that you left your sunscreen at home is not reason enough for the entire plane to make an emergency landing. These are the craziest reasons flights have been delayed.
'Can you fly the plane lower? My wife is scared of heights.'
Sure, it's no fun to be on a plane when heights make you nervous. But, considering that planes need to fly at a certain height to minimize air resistance and drag, the pilot probably won't be sympathetic enough to oblige if you ask this question. And besides, how much less nerve-racking can the plane flying at 20,000 feet, rather than 35,000 feet, possibly be, anyway? Here are some tips that can help you combat your fear of flying.
'Can you fly the plane lower? These clouds are blocking the Grand Canyon.'
Unfortunately, a commercial flight is not a sightseeing tour. If you want to see the Grand Canyon, you'll have to book a flight to Arizona where you can see it up close.
'Can you avoid flying too close to Windsor Castle? I'm worried it may annoy the Queen.'
'Can I use the rubber slide to get off the plane?'
Sure, maybe the safety manuals make the giant inflatable slide look like fun. But considering that the slide is only activated in the case of an emergency evacuation, passengers should probably stick to being grateful if they don't have to use it to get off the plane. These are the things flight attendants wish they could tell you.
'Please stock the plane with Cool Ranch Doritos and Kiwi Strawberry Sparkling Ice.'
This very specific request came from a celebrity (whose name was not revealed) using the booking app JetSmarter. This app is popular with big stars, since it allows them to book private jets and avoid the crowds (and potential paparazzi) at airports. Plus, it allows them to make ridiculous, very specific requests, like this one.
'Can I bring one of the world's best poker players with me?'
Another JetSmarter customer was determined to practice for the poker competition he was flying out to Las Vegas for. Via private jet, he flew an unnamed world-renowned poker player with him from Europe to Las Vegas and spent the entire flight practicing. Sadly, the JetSmarter spokesperson did not reveal if the customer won the competition.
'Can I celebrate New Year's Eve twice?'
According to a spokesperson for PrivateFly, not one but several of their customers request to celebrate New Years' Eve twice, on two different continents. They want to ring in the new year in Sydney, Australia and Los Angeles, California, two cities separated by a 19-hour time difference. The company grants this request by flying these eager customers from Sydney on a super-speedy Gulfstream G650, so that they can make it to Los Angeles in time for the countdown.
'Please play only Liberace music the entire flight.'
One JetSmarter client specifically insists on only hearing the sounds of Liberace every time he or she flies. Another rich family asks to have music from "Mamma Mia!" play right before takeoff every time they fly, according to Magnus Aviation. And one celebrity couple actually requested for an opera singer to join them on a flight and sing to them for an hour. We definitely don't think these requests abide by the airplane etiquette rules every plane passenger should follow.
'The engine noise is giving me a headache. Can you turn it off?'
This one might be the winner. According to cabincrew.com, one passenger asked his flight attendant what the "dull whirring sound" was, complaining of a headache. Even after the attendant told him that it was, in fact, the engine, the passenger requested that the attendant tell the captain to shut it off. When this request was denied, the passenger threatened to file a complaint saying that the airline's terms and conditions "did not state how loud the engines were during the flight." Oh well...flying isn't for everyone. Next, check out the craziest requests VIP hotel guests have ever made.
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Regardless of the airlines’ current intentions for the cameras, some experts remain wary. It’s not so much that the airlines themselves would want to spy on you while you nibble on that free biscotti, but that hackers might find ways to get ahold of those recordings. “These may potentially result in VIP passengers’ communications being eavesdropped [on], passport data being photographed while filling customs declarations, [or] entering of secret PIN codes or passwords to unlock users’ devices [being] recorded on video,” malware researcher Vitaly Kamluk told CNN Travel; it was Kamluk’s tweet about Singapore Airlines’ cameras that brought them into the public eye.
Others are quick to point out that a camera on a flight where you’re already surrounded by strangers is probably the least of your worries. “Cameras on aircraft are in one of the most secure environments possible with limited connectivity that is constantly monitored by outside companies,” points out the Airline Passenger Experience Association in a written statement. “In contrast, the greatest risk to airline passenger privacy breaches [comes] from their own smartphones, tablets, cameras, computers, and smart devices used in private settings.” For instance, you’ll want to watch out for these 16 clear signs you’re about to be hacked.
If the idea of having a camera staring at you for an entire long-haul flight gives you the heebie-jeebies—even if it isn’t on—a simple solution could be to carry a BandAid or a pack of small Post-it Notes with you. Tear off a sheet, stick it over the camera, and voilà! A physical block guarding you from spies. Now that you know how to stop potential spies, learn how to fix these 16 air travel mistakes you need to stop making.
It might sound like fun, but you'll need to have a seriously solid grasp on fine wines and fizz before you cater to Emirates' first class passengers. And according to Collins this is by way of a wine education course.
"When you’re serving things like Dom Perignon and Bordeaux, you need to have a thorough understanding of what you’re pouring," she told the magazine. "We need to know the difference between old world and new world wines, as well as champagnes, bourbons, whiskeys, and other spirits."
... And brush up on your 'silver service' dining etiquette
"In economy there’s just one tray; in First Class, we have 'silver service' dining, so appetizers, main courses, and desserts are all served at different times, and customers can 'dine on demand' whenever they want," she said.
"We’re taught all the etiquette about cutlery and the different plates used for each course."
You'll have to learn how to do your makeup perfectly
According to Collins, you'll have to abide by a set of guidelines on what's appropriate aesthetically while flying.
"Emirates likes to keep uniformity," she told the magazine. "Your nails can be nude, light pink, or you can have a French manicure. We also have different variations of red nail polish that are outlined by the Imaging and Grooming Department. An 'Emirates red' lipstick with lip liner is required."
And there's apparently one lipstick, in particular, that's popular among the airline's flight attendants. Collins told the magazine: "We like to use Mac’s Russian Red because it stays for a long time."
You'll also want to master the perfect flick, as liquid eyeliner is "recommended," while eye shadow can either be black or beige, she said.
Before first class passengers have even boarded, you'll have to do some homework
"We have a briefing and a team talk before each flight, where we'll review the customers who are traveling with us, including any VIPs," Collins told the magazine. "We get their names and have information about them stored in on-board tablets."
You'll then be expected to use this tablet to make notes about your VIP's likes, dislikes, dietary requirements, and the purpose of their trip throughout the journey, she explained.
You can swap your shoes, but only after take off ... but when parading through the airport, it’s strictly heels-on
"In the airport and during the boarding process we wear heels, but we can change into red flats after take-off. Some girls prefer not to, but I couldn’t be in heels for a 16-hour flight. After take-off we switch to 'service attire' — we remove the jacket and add a waist coat."
She added that you can easily identify the head flight attendant, or the "purser," by what they're wearing. "Our standard uniform is the skirt and white shirt with a jacket, hat, and scarf. Every crew member dresses the same, except for the purser who wears a brown color," she told Town & Country.