Climate Change Set To Take Fliers On A Bumpy Ride

If you’re one of those people who start turning green every time your airplane hits a bit of turbulence, you’re in for a rough ride in the coming years. According to a new study, air turbulence is likely to go up by 10-40 percent by 2050, causing more passengers to reach for the airsickness bag.

The report published in the Nature Climate Change journal says that clear air turbulence – a sharp movement of air that happens even in good weather – is likely to get worse in the coming decades because of climate change.

The report’s authors studied the air over the North Atlantic, which is one of the busiest flight corridors in the world. They believe that as greenhouse gases increase, clear air turbulence will also rise – putting more planes in danger’s way. What’s more, this particular type of turbulence doesn’t show up on an airplane’s radar, making it tough for pilots to dodge. Planes that are given a heads up by other aircraft might be able to detour around the turbulence, but that would mean longer flight times and using up more fuel, which in turn contributes to the climate change problem.

But don’t start popping the motion sickness pills just yet. Some scientists say the study isn’t conclusive and believe there needs to be more research into the matter.

[Photo credit: Flickr user woodleywonderworks]

The 10 Best Travel Apps For Flight Attendants

1. FAAWait – During a creeping weather delay a flight attendant who also works part time as an air traffic controller told me about FAAWait. It’s his favorite app. One click and we knew which airports across the country were also experiencing delays, how long the delays were averaging, and what had caused the delays.

2. MyRadar: Recently a fearful flier on board one of my flights spent three hours watching the weather light up his iPad screen: blue, green, red – wow, so much red! He knew exactly when to expect turbulence, how bad it might get, and how long it would last. Knowing this kept him calm. At one point he even turned around in his seat to let the crew know it would be smooth flying from here on out. Two seconds later the captain called to tell us the exact same thing, it was safe to get up and finish the service. Since then I’ve been recommending the app to anyone who mentions they’re afraid to fly.

3. WhatsApp: An Emirate’s flight attendant from Bosnia based in Saudi Arabia told me about this app on a flight from Miami to New York. WhatsApp makes it possible to send text messages to friends and family out of the country free of charge. There is virtually no cost to stay in touch with loved ones. You can even share audio and video messages.

4. Twitter: Still the best way to get breaking news! You don’t need to “get it.” Just learn how to use the hashtags to find information as it’s happening. For instance, not too long ago I was at an airport that was being evacuated and no one knew why. That was my cue to search the airport code – #DFW. That’s how I found out there was a bomb threat on an incoming flight. I learned this from passengers who were actually on board the flight and tweeting about it as they taxied to the gate.

5. HappyHourFinder: Flight attendants don’t make a lot of money. In fact new hires start out making less than $18,000 a year. And yet we’re subjected to overpriced hotel and airport food on a regular basis. This is why we take advantage of happy hour specials, particularly ones that include half priced appetizers, which might explain how I ended up at Vince Neil’s Bar, Tres Rios, in Las Vegas two hours after learning about the app in the crew van on our way from the airport to the layover hotel.6. Instagram: Because when you travel there are just so many beautiful things to photograph. The app not only makes your pictures look ten times better, it’s easy to text and email your photos or post photos straight to Facebook or Twitter. What I enjoy most about the app is following people whose photos inspire me to travel, like @Lax2Nrt or even @Umetaturou who shares hilarious pictures of a Border Collie named Sora who can balance anything on his head. One of these days I’m going to fly to Japan and walk that dog!

7. Postagram: Remember when you used to send postcards to family and friends from around the world just to let them know you were thinking about them? Now you’re too busy to think, let alone search for just the right card to send. Not to mention all that time it takes to address and stamp it. With Postagram you can turn your cool photos into postcards by using pictures from your phone, Facebook or Twitter. Write a short message and Postagram will take care of the rest.

8. Yelp: Whenever I find myself at a layover hotel in a new city, the first thing I do is pull up Yelp just to see what’s nearby. I might use it to find a great place to eat, check out a tourist attraction, or locate a pharmacy within walking distance. Users post reviews and photos to help narrow down the search so you can determine whether or not it’s worth it to leave your hotel room.

9. HotelTonight: If you’re a commuter like me, this app will save your life one day. At noon each day HotelTonight offers great last minute deals on a couple of hotels near your current location. Get a $25 credit with your first booking, $25 for each friend who signs up, and $25 when a friend makes their first bookings. So … who wants to be friends?

10. GateGuru: Enter an airport code and up pops everything you could ever want to know about food, shopping, and any services offered, along with reviews, ratings and maps. Enter your flight number and access flight status, delays and weather conditions all in the same place.

[Photo courtesy of PartyMonstrrr]

Coping with a fear of flying: the secret rituals of aviophobics

fear of flyingMy name is Laurel, and I have aviophobia. I, like millions of Americans, am scared shitless of flying. Aviophobia can manifest for a variety of reasons: a traumatic experience on a previous flight; claustrophobia; fear of heights; fear of loss of control (ding, ding, ding!), even a fear of motion sickness. After years of researching the subject, I’ve learned that I fit the classic profile of an aviophobic: female, with sudden onset in my early twenties.

In my situation, there was nothing to precipitate my phobia; I actually loved to fly as a kid. But over a period of 10 years, it progressed until I was not only having anxiety attacks on flights, but suffering frequent nightmares about crashes in the weeks before a trip, no matter how anticipated. The final straw came when, in December of 1999, I was about to embark on a five-week solo backpacking trip of Southeast Asia. It was days before my departure, and I was so terrified by the thought of 21 hours in the air, I was ready to bail on the entire thing.

Fortunately, I got a grip, called my doctor, and explained the situation. He immediately wrote me a prescription for Xanax and my life as a traveler has been the better for it ever since. Why it took me so long is a mystery, but Xanax quells (but not eliminates) my anxiety and enables me to fall into slumber that renders me drooling and pleasantly out of it during flight, but alert enough to awaken should it be necessary.

I know Xanax is a crutch, and that’s okay. I’m not advocating taking drugs to solve all of one’s problems, but in this instance, it’s what worked for me after other methods (including therapy) failed. I know people who no longer fly because of their phobia, and to me, that’s sad. The world becomes a smaller place–literally and figuratively–when you let fear control you.

I still don’t enjoy flying, although my phobia has lessened. There are even the rare flights where I don’t take Xanax. But there’s one thing I must always do before departure that’s far more important than popping a pharmaceutical. I must perform My Ritual.

[Photo credit: Flickr user runningclouds]

fear of flyingEvery aviophobic I’ve talked to (for some reason, most of my friends suffer from it) has a secret mantra they utter, or small ceremony they perform before flight that, in their minds, assures them the Gods of Aviation or whoever will ensure safe passage.

Admittedly, most of my friends are depraved lushes who drink themselves senseless before they fly (another used to rely upon “bong hits,”) but that’s not what I’m referring to. And, for the record, I strongly recommend you not get hammered before departure, especially if you’re taking sleeping pills or other prescription drugs related to your flight. I also recommend you see your doctor and get a prescription, rather than take meds or sleep aids from friends or purchase them in a foreign pharmacy.

For those of you who grapple with a fear of flying, I know you have your little pre-flight ritual. Whenever I board an aircraft I have to touch the outside of the plane with my right hand, and utter a specific phrase to myself. I’m not going to say what it is, because I don’t want to doom my next flight.

I asked my fellow Gadling contributors, AOL Huffington Post Media Group editors, and flight-phobic friends what they do for solace before taking to the skies, and they were very forthcoming. Touching the outside of the plane while boarding was by far the most common response. What a bunch of freaks.

Rebecca Dolan: “I won’t fly without a St. Christopher medal.”
fear of flying
Laurel’s friend L: “Despite not being religious, the act of saying the words to the Hail Mary and Lord’s Prayer before take-off is just something I have to do. I also can’t step on any metal on the jetway. This means I have to take a big, stretched-out step while boarding the plane.”

Annemarie Dooling: “This is all the Catholic school that was beaten into me as a child: I pray the rosary. I recite the Hail Mary and Our Father on succession; this way if I die, I’ll go to heaven, right? Right?”

Melanie Renzulli: “When I lived in India, I got into this habit of praying to Ganesha when taking off. Now I do a quick little prayer to Buddha, Ganesha, Allah, and Jesus just to cover most of my bases. Cheesy, I know. I mentioned this to a flying enthusiast friend of mine and he said, “I pray to the gods of certification, engineering, manufacturing, and most importantly physics.”

Laurel’s friend J: “I have no rituals except vigilance. Every time I try to nod off, that’s when the Captain comes on to tell us we’ve blown a tire, or that little dip was one of the engines going out, or we’re about to encounter some strong turbulence and the attendants had better strap in….so no distractions for me, just watching and waiting.” [I should add that this particular friend--a strapping fellow--has endured two emergency landings, so I applaud him for flying at all].

Kyle Ellison: “My wife has to take Xanax, pee twice, and snap her hand with a rubber band to calm down. Why? Who knows. I always touch the side of the aircraft with my right palm when walking through the front door. Done it since I was five.”

Laurel’s friend A: Her ritual is taking the train.

[Photo credits: pills, Flickr user Keturah Stickann; rosary, Flickr user miqui]

Deepak Chopra on How to Overcome Fear of Flying

Galley Gossip: Is it okay for passengers to dump their drinks on the floor during turbulence?

Dear Heather, Today I heard an announcement in-flight I’d never heard before and was wondering if you make it often, or ever. After serving drinks, it got a little turbulent and the flight attendants had to sit down. A few minutes later the purser came on and said, “if you’re having trouble controlling your drinks, please just dump them on the floor.” WHAT? And waste all this good wine, I thought. I just chugged mine and it was not an issue, but wondered if anyone poured theirs on the floor. What do you think of this? – Frequent Flying Ron

I’ve been a flight attendant for sixteen years and while I have yet to make a PA like the one you heard, I have suggested doing the same thing to passengers sitting near my jump seat after they rang the call light and then held up their drinks in the air during a rough patch of air. This right after the Captain made the announcement, “Flight attendants take your jump seats now!” When you hear those words, you know it’s going to be bad.

There are four types of turbulence: light, moderate, severe, and extreme.Light turbulence causes a slight, rapid and somewhat rhythmic bumpiness without appreciable changes in altitude or attitude. Sometimes pilots refer to it as light chop. It’s the kind that rocks babies, and even a few overly worked flight attendants, to sleep. The seat belt sign may be on, but flight attendants are still able to conduct the food service with little to no difficulty.

Moderate turbulence is a little more intense. It causes rapid bumps or jolts without changes in aircraft altitude. Passengers will feel the strain of their seat belts. Unsecured objects in the galley may dislodge. Conducting a food service or checking for seat belt compliance is difficult.

Severe turbulence causes large or abrupt changes in altitude. The aircraft may be momentarily out of control. Passengers are forced violently against their seats. Walking is impossible. If flight attendants haven’t strapped into their jump seats already, we may not be able to do so and we’ll have to grab the nearest available passenger seat. If there’s not one open, we’ll sit on a passenger – any one will do. Make sure to hold on to us tightly.

Extreme turbulence rarely happens, but when it does it will violently toss an aircraft about, making it practically impossible to control. Structural damage is possible.


According to the FAA’s website, over a million people travel by air every day. From 1980 through 2008 there were 238 accidents involving turbulence, resulting in 298 serious injuries and three fatalities. Of the three fatalities, two passengers were not wearing their safety belt while the seat belt sign was on. Of the 298 seriously injured, 184 involved were flight attendants. So if you see flight attendants sitting in the jump seats when it starts to get bumpy, it’s safe to assume we’re just trying to make sure we don’t end up in a hospital far away from home or be forced into early retirement!

So is it okay to dump your drink on the floor during turbulence? I’m not going to say it’s okay. But I’m also not going to say it’s not okay. What I will say is we’d rather you do what Ron did and drink faster! Or wait for us to whisk it away when it’s safe to be up in the cabin.

Photo courtesy of MikeCogh

Video: ten terrifying landings, takeoffs and flights

It is pretty safe to say that 99.99% of all flights are completely uneventful, but every now and then you’ll find yourself on a flight from hell. We’ve collected ten videos of poor takeoffs, poor landings and dreadful in-flight turbulence. Just remember – any flight you can walk away from can be considered a successful flight.

In the first video, you’ll see JetBlue flight 292 trying to land with a broken nosewheel. The amazing flight crew managed to land the plane without any real problems. This plane also went down in history as the first where the passengers were able to watch their own plane emergency on live TV thanks to the DirectTV service.

Ecuador, bumpy takeoff.

Aborted landing of a KLM 747 at St.Maarten airport – watch at the plane comes in to land but is faced with an occupied runway.

Watch as the pilot of this Concorde decided the crosswinds are too much for a safe landing. Such an amazing plane, and a real shame she’s no longer with us.

This is the aftermath of some really nasty turbulence on a Kuwait Airways flight. Passengers seem stunned, and the aisle is full of stuff from the overhead bins. Thankfully, most turbulence is limited to being thrown around a bit and almost never results in anything worse.

American Airlines coming in for a landing in Honduras at Tegucigalpa airport.

Same airport, from cockpit view.

Watch this Boeing 747 almost run out of asphalt – and witness the spotters freak out a little when 800,000 lbs of plane flies towards them.

Another awesome clip from St.Maarten airport. The beach at the end of the runway is notoriously dangerous, but that didn’t stop these people from enjoying some sun, sea and sand. Until the jet took off that is…

This is one of those landings where the passengers ask the pilot whether he landed the plane, or if he was shot down.