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Why Passengers Feel Cold On Airplanes, How To Avoid Coldness In Cabin. Photo KnowInsiders
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Have you ever wonder why it is cold on airplanes? Is it just a feeling? What is the real temperature inside the cabin? This article might give you a proper answer.

What is the temperature in the cabin?

Normally, cabin crew always keep the temperature around 20-24 degrees Celsius. Some people who are cold tolerant and move around a lot in the plane like flight attendants find such this temperature quite reasonable. But for those who can't stand the cold, a warm outer layer is a savior to ensure health during the flight.

According to Josephine Rem, a flight attendant at Scandinavian Airlines, both pilots and flight attendants have control over the temperature in the cabin, and each airline has its own standards for temperature. The temperature controls are usually located in the cockpit. But newer planes have controls in the cabin that help flight attendants adjust the temperature without disturbing the pilot.

Why is the temperature low in the cabin?

Photo roamoften
Photo roamoften

Turns out, it’s not just a quirky airplane feature—there’s a medical reason why airplanes are cold. ASTM International conducted a study that looked into the correlation between people fainting while in the air and the cabin pressure and temperature. They found that people tend to faint more easily while flying because of a medical condition known as hypoxia. It occurs when the body tissue doesn’t receive enough oxygen—and high cabin pressure and warm temperatures can further this reaction. It’s fairly common in airline passengers.

Since body temperatures vary, airlines will keep the temperature on the low side just to be safe. That’s unfortunate for people who shiver even at the slightest breeze, but packing on a few extra layers is better than having the guy next to you pass out. Make sure to always follow these etiquette rules when flying.

There are actually a number of reasons why airlines could choose to keep the temperature of your flight so low.

Photo Getty
Photo Getty

To look after equipment

Monserrat Andujar-Geacoman, a flight attendant for a domestic US airline, told Insider that aircraft were kept cool to "accommodate emergency equipment and cockpit instruments." She advised bringing an extra sweater.

To stop passengers fainting

Metro dug out an old study by ASTM International which looked at why passengers faint mid-flight. The study found that hypoxia, a 'deficiency in the amount of oxygen reaching the tissues' was more likely to occur during a flight than while on the ground because of the pressure inside the cabin. And hypoxia can often lead to fainting.

Another trigger for hypoxia is warmer cabin temperatures, so airlines choose to keep the cabins cool to lower the risk of anyone passing out.

READ MORE: Where Is Yakutsk – The World’s Coldest City: Temperatures And How To Cope With Coldness

Cool Air Reduces Risk of Hypoxia

Using a lower temperature for cabin air also reduces the risk of hypoxia in passengers and crew members. A few years, ASTM International released a study showing a connection between instances of onboard fainting and cabin temperature. Researchers from ASTM International found that the combination of low oxygen levels and warm air increased the risk of fainting. When passengers were exposed to warm cabin air, they were more likely to experience hypoxia, resulting in fainting episodes.

Because heat increases the risk of hypoxia, commercial airlines tend to maintain a cool cabin environment. Airplanes naturally have less oxygen in the air than that of the ground air. Unfortunately, some people are susceptible to hypoxia when exposed to environments with low oxygen levels. To protect against hypoxia-related fainting, commercial airlines maintain cool cabins.

Low humidity makes it feel colder

The low humidity in commercial airplanes makes the cabin air feel colder than what it actually is. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), commercial airplanes have an average relative humidity of just 20%, meaning the cabin air is just one-fifth saturated with moisture. In comparison, the relative humidity level in a typical home may range from 40% to 60%.

Because commercial airplanes have low humidity levels, the air feels cooler than what it actually is. Humidity is a measurement of moisture airborne moisture. When the air is humid, the high level of airborne moisture vapor will insulate your body to minimize loss of body heat. When the air isn’t humid, on the other hand, the lack of airborne moisture vapor will result in your body losing heat more quickly. As a result, you’ll feel colder, even if the temperature doesn’t reflect it.

To keep the cabin pleasant

In a report commissioned by the House of Lords, Airbus explained that passenger body heat is quite substantial, so good ventilation is necessary for a fresh atmosphere. "The heat given off by passengers in a fully occupied cabin is considerable," they commented. "Incoming air needs to be at or below the required cabin temperature if that temperature is to be maintained".

Why Flight Crews May Like It Cold

But no matter what plane you’re on, passengers are still at the mercy of flight crews who ultimately control the settings. And crews often prefer a cooler cabin, according to a flight attendant for a major U.S. airline, who requested anonymity.

That crew member points out that flight attendants who wear layered uniforms and are constantly moving about may want more AC than passengers who are wearing lighter clothing and are sitting still in their seats for hours. It’s not just a matter of the crews’ convenience, either. In cases of severe turbulence, a cooler cabin can help with passenger discomfort.

In the end, though, it comes down to the individual. “We get passengers saying they’re too hot, and on the same plane someone is asking us to bring out the blankets,” the flight attendant said.

What should we do when we are cold on airplanes?

Thick layers of clothes

Photo Getty
Photo Getty

The advice for you is to always bring a warm shirt with you or a thin blanket while on board. Some flight attendants will give you a thin blanket on long-haul flights.

You can bring a thick coat or furry type for extra peace of mind. If it feels hot you can turn them into a soft pillow.

Wearing a pair of gloves and a pair of socks is essential. Flight attendants also often advise passengers not to wear shoes that are too tight or high boots, to make blood circulation easier.

Photo Getty
Photo Getty

Bring a lightweight scarf, something that won’t take up much space if you ball it up and throw it in your carry-on. Oh, sure, you could bring that pashmina every magazine editor tells you is a must-have for a long weekend in Europe—a fashion accessory that doubles as throw blanket on airplanes, c’est parfait! No. Ce n’est pas parfait at all: If you’re cold enough to use it as a blanket, then you’re giving up your scarf. (This is no good: a warm neck and chest area can make a world of difference.) And if you decide you don’t need it in-flight, a pashmina takes up too much under-seat space than it’s worth.

Choosing proper seats

If you are able to select your seats in advance of your flight, make sure you’re at least two rows away from any exit doors—sometimes they’re not a problem, but sometimes they’re painfully drafty—and try to avoid the very back of the plane, where it’s a little colder. (The window seat can sometimes be a couple of degrees chillier too, especially if you’re leaning against the wall of the plane).

For those among us who are so numb with cold that you’re willing to go the distance, here’s a hardcore tip:

Right before takeoff (or earlier, depending on torture levels of the terminal temperature), you should put on one of these disposable Thermacare heat wraps around the waist with the heated part on the lower back. They’re slightly pricey for a one-off use at around $6-10 each, depending on where you get them. And they aren’t environmentally friendly—you end up throwing away the whole wrap, which is a substantial piece of fabric with little magic heater patches. But they WORK! They take about 20 mins to heat up to max temp and then stay that way for at least 8 hours. Sometimes they’re almost too hot, but in a good way for people who run chilly.

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