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Why do in-flight movies make you weep? 5 things you never knew about being in an airplane

Why are the windows round? How's the air quality when everyone's feeling... gassy? We’ve got the answers to these and other surprising facts about air travel.

Why do in-flight movies make you weep? 5 things you never knew about being in an airplane

That long-haul flight is the perfect opportunity to ponder that all-important question: Should you have the chicken or the fish? (Photo: Pixabay)

Whenever you’re on an airplane, chances are you’ll find yourself becoming particularly reflective. 

The cramped confines of your window seat are the perfect environment for pondering meaningful questions such as “What are the effects of increasing globalisation?”, “What is the meaning of life?” and “Should I have the chicken or the fish?”

But there are many other things about spending your time inside a sealed metal tube hurtling through the air that you probably never think about until they’re drawn to your attention. 

For example, the passengers on the recent Air India flight, which ran into severe turbulence, probably never thought about how their plane windows were constructed until one inner pane fell off.

It was all okay, though – the reason being that airplane windows have three layers, with the outermost layer bearing most of the pressure and the inner layer not really doing much more than to look nice and prevent passengers from damaging the other layers. 

On that note, have you ever thought about why airplane windows are round? Read on to find out the answer to this and other questions you never knew you had about your in-flight experience.

Q. Why does the in-flight movie make me cry?

On the ground, Bambi’s mother’s unfortunate demise might leave you feeling stony-hearted. But in the air, even a telco commercial has you blubbering like a baby. The reasons behind this, according to an article released last year on, are both biological and psychological.

The next time you find yourself tearing up while watching Up on the plane, blame the lack of oxygen. (Photo: Pixar)

Firstly, since there’s less oxygen in the air during a flight, your body feels tired, so you cry more easily.

And secondly, being cocooned in an airplane seat with headphones on and a little screen right up close to your face creates a sense of intimacy and solitude that can lead to heightened emotions.

So, whatever you do, don’t start watching Up.

Q. How much fart is in the air at any given time?

Because of cabin pressure changes and the effects of sitting for long hours, it’s quite common to feel bloated and gassy on a plane. What happens to the air around you if everybody is extra farty?

Well, according to doctors’ estimates, each person breaks wind 10 times every 24 hours, amounting to a total of one litre. In the air, where the pressure is lower, air expands, increasing its volume by about 30 percent. You do the math.

Okay, `fess up. Who had Mexican food at the airport? (Photo: Pixabay)

Thankfully, many airlines use charcoal filters in their air conditioning systems, which helps to limit smells and odours.

Q. Why are there ashtrays on planes when smoking is not allowed?

 No, it’s not a vestigial design feature they forgot to take out. It is a mandate by the Federal Aviation Administration. An ashtray of some sort is usually fitted within the lavatory because, in the event that a recalcitrant passenger flouts the rules and smokes a cigarette there, they should be able to stub it out safely, instead of causing a fire by chucking it in the trash bin.

Q. Why are plane windows round?

Windows were built with round shapes after it was discovered that two fatal plane crashes in 1954 were caused by structural weaknesses from stresses at the corners of square windows. Having round windows allows the pressure to be distributed more evenly, preserving the integrity of the fuselage.

Round windows are structurally better than square ones. (Photo: Pixabay)

Q. What would happen if all the pilots became incapacitated?

Well, you could technically land the plane yourself. As long as you can figure out how to communicate with someone on the ground – usually by pushing a button to speak with them – they can talk you through the process of navigating towards the nearest airport equipped with autoland, a system that fully automates airplane landings. So, just put everything on auto, and you’ll be fine. In theory, that is.

Erm, where's the Help button? (Photo: Pixabay)
Source: CNA/mm