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“I upgraded my seat so I could have extra leg room,” says McGuckin, a six-footer who has a severe hip issue.
McGuckin asked the flight attendant for a blanket and was immediately offered a blanket for purchase. He asked to speak with the crew chief and waited two hours for someone to show up and agree the temperature was freezing.
There’s a reason why airplane cabins are generally kept very cold, says a study by the American Society for Testing and Materials. Passengers are more likely to faint on board an aircraft than on the ground.
“Because everyone’s body temperatures are different, airlines would rather keep the cabin a little too cool and have some passengers be cold instead of even having one passenger faint,” says Business Insider magazine.
An airplane cabin is also a workplace for the flight crew, who have to put up with temperature while working in limited space and wearing layered uniforms.
“Our cabin crew is always calling for cool air and I oblige,” said Chris Manno, a captain for a major U.S. airline in Conde Nast Traveller magazine.
“Add to that the way many passengers dress, wearing light resort wear, so it’s likely when the temp is comfortably cool for the working crew, it’s probably a little cold for the seated, not-working passenger in shorts and a T-shirt.”
Newer models, such as the Boeing 777 or 787, have advanced thermostats that can regulate temperatures by zone and can even adjust them by row.
On older aircraft, such as the extended range Boeing 767, which entered service in 2000, the air conditioning system is less precise.
“Travel can be many things, but too often it is either too hot or too cold,” says Washington Post travel writer Christopher Elliott. “And not just on an aircraft. Buses, trains and other types of mass transit often get the interior temperature wrong, either overcooling or overheating the cabin.”
“I wanted to know why, if Air Canada is aware these seats are so cold, it doesn’t warn customers in advance to wear warm clothes or offer extra blankets. On my flight to Poland, I had five blankets and was still cold.”
On the flight from Vancouver, he was told that a customer service representative would be waiting when he landed. No one was there.
He called the federal transportation ministry, “but it’s not a flight safety issue until the paying customer goes nuts on board the plane because of how they have been treated and has to be restrained.”
My advice: Dress in layers you can add or remove. Bring your own blankets.
“The newer the plane, the more advanced the onboard technology and that goes for air systems,” says Conde Nast Traveller. “The simplest way to guess at your aircraft’s age is by reading the Wikipedia pages. A search can even reveal the exact date your aircraft entered service.”
Ellen Roseman’s column runs in Smart Money. email@example.com