Captain Steve Answers More of Your Airline Questions
For a few months now, we’ve been soliciting reader questions for Captain Steve, a pilot with a major U.S. airline. You can find his first few batches of answers here, and he’s back now with another round. You can leave new questions for him in the comments section below.
Steve, what airline would you not fly? — Dave Ashton
Most U.S., major European, and Asian carriers are fine. I would avoid nonscheduled airlines and very small airlines. These tend to have little oversight and less maintenance and training. These are very broad guidelines.
My personal preference would be not to fly Qantas. They’ve never crashed, and I feel that they’re probably due. Once they have, I won’t worry as much! — Dave Ashton
Faulty reasoning. Qantas has the best record by choice. These things are not by happenstance. They are a superb airline!
The earth rotates east to west. Does it take less time to fly from New York to California than from California to New York because of this? — Mike Myler
No. Prevailing winds aloft make eastbound flights in North America (typically) shorter. Watch the Weather Channel. Where is the jet stream and which way does it flow?
Why do airline ticket prices seem to start low and then go high? It’s the opposite of what happens when scalpers/ticket brokers resell tickets: people pay a premium to get the ticket early and be sure they have a seat. The price typically falls leading up to the event. At the time of the event, the resale prices will go higher if it’s sold out (as many plane flights are). — Kitt Hirasaki
It’s the same supply and demand you describe but with twist. The seats you see at low price are a select few. They go fast. Then as the date is nearer, the price climbs because the selected few seats are priced in different batches. There may be 12 to 15 different priced seats in the same flight on the same day. Just prior to departure (hours), the price will drop in an attempt to fill any last remaining open seats.
Wouldn’t passengers be safer if they sat facing the rear of the plane? — doug
Yeah, but many would get sick. It’s been done. Ever sat facing the rear in a fast express train? Next time you are on a train, watch to see if the rear-facing seats in a train are the first or last to be taken!
Does it make sense to provide avionics that prevents planes from flying to certain points — for example, avionics that would prevent a plane from ever flying anywhere near a nuclear power facility? — doug
No. It seems like a good idea, but then that adds another threat. All I need to do is alter software and make the plane fly to those points. Manned airliners are the lowest common safety net.
I understand what turbulence is (a weather event); what I would like to know is how safe/traumatic/avoidable/recoverable it is in reality. The flight attendants don’t seem phased by it, but I am sitting there white-knuckled and ready to scream. — Ah-mei
Relax. It is uncomfortable but safe. Word to the wise: watch flight attendants a lot. They know what is normal and what is not. When they begin to scurry around working at a fever pitch, take notice and be proactive; ask if you can help!