We happened across this little article by Michael Gebicki from Fairfax and it reminded us that we have been meaning for a YEAR to whinge about the temperature on planes.

Keeping temperatures at the lower end of the range on a plane can be a better option than having passengers fainting.Keeping temperatures at the lower end of the range on a plane can be a better option than having passengers fainting. Photo: Getty Images

The pilot has overall control within a range of about 20-28 degrees, but within those parameters the actual temperature control is left up to the flight crew, who will generally set is at 22 or 23 degrees.

If the temperature drops to 20 degrees passengers start to shiver and complain, but anecdotal advice from flight crew suggests that more passengers faint when the temperature rises above 24 degrees.

This is supported by a study conducted by a study published by the American Society for Testing and Materials, which concluded “There is evidence that cabin pressure and temperature may contribute to the occurrence of syncope”, the medical term for fainting.

This results from a deficient blood flow to the brain, which might happen when a passenger rises after a prolonged period of inactivity.

Fainting is more likely to occur following a sedentary spell in an aircraft than at home, sitting in front of the TV for example, because air pressure in the cabin at typical cruising altitude is equivalent to the outside air pressure at 1800–2400m above sea level.

At that altitude, less oxygen is available to be transported in the blood stream, which increases the incidence of fainting.

Flight crew also suggest that passengers sitting in the rear of an aircraft are more susceptible, along with overweight males, elderly passengers and those with cardiovascular conditions.

Hmmm. Well we had one experience recently with drove us nuts. We flew from Tokyo to Paris with Japan Airlines, specifically because we wanted to end our brief sojourn in the Land of the Rising Sun with the experience of munching sushi on the way over to France, even though by the time we got there we were actually a bit sushi-d out as we had eaten little else for four days. Well, we had one plate of German ham hock in a first floor Bavarian “BierKeller”, but that’s a long story.

May we suggest an extra serve of green tea ice-cream?

May we suggest an extra serve of green tea ice-cream?

Anyhow the cabin temperature was set to roasting overnight. It was completely impossible to sleep comfortably – or even just endure it watching TV comfortably.

Now admittedly we were sitting towards the rear of the plane (on the basis that very few planes ever reverse into mountains) and your compellingly honest correspondent will admit to being somewhat, er … well let’s just say an Indian tailor once smiled sweetly and said he thought he had something in portly short that would fit us … but it was really ridiculously hot. Even Mrs Wellthisiswhatithink agreed, and she would complain of feeling chilly sitting next to an open blast-furnace.

We pleaded with the cabin staff to turn the heating down, but they simply refused, albeit with lots of bowing and smiling. “No” still means “no”, even when accompanied by traditional Japanese deference. Eventually, one remarked that Asian passengers prefer the cabin kept warmer, or they all complain. As we were amongst very few Europeans on the flight we grumblingly acquiesced to that logic and eventually went to sleep with a tea-towel stuffed with ice behind our neck.

The sushi was pretty crap, too. And the seats were too small. Although to be fair it should be noted that in 2013 JAL was given an award for being the most punctual international carrier, so presumably you arrive at your destination drenched in sweat but on time more often.

In general, we find cabin temperatures are set too high way too often, especially on long-haul overnight flights. One such flight across the Atlantic (Chicago-London) with BA would have been more comfortable if we’d all been in bathing costumes. Admittedly it was seriously cold leaving Chicago, but it’s hard to dismiss the feeling that the cabin was set to uber-warm by the staff to greet the frozen travellers and then just left that way because no one thought to check it. Or maybe they were just having too much fun chatting to yours truly as he drank vodka after vodka in the food prep area, having given up entirely on any hope of getting any sleep.

The point is surely, if they are set at the lower end of the scale, then people who feel chilly can put on another layer, or snuggle under a blanket. Or two. Those who are overheated are limited in their ability to respond. No one wants to see a somewhat corpulent middle aged fellow in his undies fanning himself with a dog-eared in-flight magazine.

So we politely urge pursers and captains to start low and hand out lots of blankies, or at least start low and edge the temp up half a degree at a time, rather than start high and wait for people to start fainting or panting.

Unless your passenger list is mainly Asian, we guess. In which case, Caveat Emptor would seem to apply for fliers. Interestingly, though, we have also flown with South China, Cathay Pacific, Singapore, Vietnam and Malaysian, and not noticed the problem to anything like the same degree as we experienced with JAL.

The other hottest planes we have known have been Qantas inside Australia, which are frequently stifling. What is with that?

Apparently taking "selfies" of their beautiful selves is the latest thing with air hostesses, as this recent shot of an Emirates crew shows. Well you try Googling "too hot stewardesses" and see what you come up with.

Apparently taking “selfies” of their beautiful selves is the latest thing with air hostesses, as this recent shot of an Emirates crew shows. Well you try Googling “too hot stewardesses” and see what you come up with.

And just to throw a bunch of flowers as well as a brickbat, we flew back from Dubai to Australia with Emirates and the experience was about as magnificent as flying anywhere cattle-class could be.

Seats were comfortable, food was brilliant, staff were charming and spoke (to our count) 17 different languages – they announce them at the start of the flight – entertainment system was excellent – and above all, blessed be, the cabin was pleasantly temperate.

Still, we guess people from Dubai know a bit about air-conditioning.

The exceptionally comfortable Dubai International airport is enormous – cavernous – yet impeccably cool: quite remarkable, really, although clearing customs was ludicrously slow. That aside, we would recommend Emirates to anyone.

What’s your most recent flying experience – good, bad, indifferent? And what do you think about cabin temperatures? Let us know!

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Comments
  1. chris B says:

    Worst experience along these lines was a few years back flying Delta from Atlanta to London on a wide body MD11. In the center of 5 crowded seats with insufficient leg room and the temperature too high. Just awful.

    Mind you I once got bumped up to seat 1A on an air canada flight from Vancouver back to England. That wasnt awful at all.

    Like

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