If you’re a frequent flyer, you might have grown accustomed to (and honestly slept through!) the various sounds that chime overhead on an airplane. But what do all those pings mean, anyway? Turns out, you should really be paying more attention to the signals—and here’s why.
The dings and pings will typically let you know when you should stay seated and when you can move around the cabin, which it’s why it’s good to know the best time to get up and use the plane bathroom. But, according to Scott Keyes, Founder and CEO of Scott’s Cheap Flights, airline pilots and crews also use the sounds to communicate with each other. “Each airline has its own internal language for what specific chimes mean, and they can vary by length, pitch, and repetition,” Keyes told Reader’s Digest. “Think of it as a 30,000-foot morse code.” Interesting, sure… but now we want to break the code.
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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Keyes shares that the different noises can mean any of the following things: “The seatbelt light is now on or off, a specific passenger needs assistance, turbulence is upcoming, more refreshments are needed, or that the plane is at a certain altitude” are just some of the examples he provides. But he admits that the chimes’ exact meanings vary from airline to airline. And, of course, airplane chimes are only some of the common airplane sights and sounds that we’re curious about.
Qantas Airways also divulged some of their cabin crew lingo. If you hear a high-low “ding-dong” chime on a Qantas plane, you’ll know that the staff wants to get each other’s attention. But don’t worry: These calls are usually made for non-emergencies, like checking to see if the other side of the cabin has soda or pretzel refills. On the other hand, captain or crew members use a triple low chime for priority messages like warning the flight attendants of bumpy skies ahead. That way, they can begin locking up their snack carts before the announcement is made to the rest of the passengers.
But no two airlines use the same chiming system; it’s just the standard one for Qantas Airways. Retired U.S. Airways captain John Cox gave his own inside scoop in a blog post for USA Today. According to him, two airplane chimes on a U.S. Airways flight signal that the plane is approaching 10,000 feet. Three or more chimes could indicate that there is a sick passenger in need of medical attention. And one chime can warn flight attendants of turbulence ahead—or that the plane captains would like a cup of coffee. But Keyes concludes that “airlines won’t divulge exactly what most communiques indicate, for security reasons,” so the exact meanings of the chimes will have to remain things airlines won’t tell you.
In-flight refreshments are arranged in a first-class seat onboard a Boeing Co. B777-300ER aircraft operated by American Airlines Group Inc. at Sydney Airport in Sydney, Australia, on Friday, Nov. 13, 2015. American Airlines in December will start daily flights between Sydney and Los Angeles, allowing Qantas Airways Ltd. at the same time to reopen a route from Sydney to San Francisco. Photographer: Brendon Thorne/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Passenger seating and a bed sit in the first class cabin of an Airbus A380-800 aircraft, operated by Qatar Airways Ltd., on the opening day of the 14th Dubai Air Show at Dubai World Central (DWC) in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on Sunday, Nov. 8, 2015. The Dubai Air Show is the biggest aerospace event in the Middle East, Asia and Africa and runs Nov. 8 - 12. Photographer: Jasper Juinen/Bloomberg via Getty Images
An in-flight meal is arranged in a first-class seat onboard a Boeing Co. B777-300ER aircraft operated by American Airlines Group Inc. at Sydney Airport in Sydney, Australia, on Friday, Nov. 13, 2015. American Airlines in December will start daily flights between Sydney and Los Angeles, allowing Qantas Airways Ltd. at the same time to reopen a route from Sydney to San Francisco. Photographer: Brendon Thorne/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A picture taken on June 16, 2015 during the International Paris Airshow at Le Bourget shows the first class area of a Qatar Airlines' A380. AFP PHOTO / /MIGUEL MEDINA (Photo credit should read MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP/Getty Images)
Akbar Al Baker, chief executive officer of Qatar Airways Ltd., left, and Timothy 'Tim' Clark, inspect the First Class bar area during a tour of an Airbus SAS A380 aircraft, operated by Qatar Airways Ltd., on day two of the 51st International Paris Air Show in Paris, France, on Tuesday, June 16, 2015. The 51st International Paris Air Show is the world's largest aviation and space industry exhibition and takes place at Le Bourget airport June 15 - 21. Photographer: Jason Alden/Bloomberg via Getty Images
First Class passenger booths sit on the upper deck of an Airbus SAS A380 aircraft, operated by Qatar Airways Ltd., on day two of the 51st International Paris Air Show in Paris, France, on Tuesday, June 16, 2015. The 51st International Paris Air Show is the world's largest aviation and space industry exhibition and takes place at Le Bourget airport June 15 - 21. Photographer: Jason Alden/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Entertainment screens operate on first class cabin booths aboard an Airbus SAS A380 aircraft, operated by Qatar Airways Ltd., on the opening day of the 51st International Paris Air Show in Paris, France, on Monday, June 15, 2015. The 51st International Paris Air Show is the world's largest aviation and space industry exhibition and takes place at Le Bourget airport June 15 - 21. Photographer: Jason Alden/Bloomberg via Getty Images