How to Skip lines at the Airport

 

(recently published in USA Today)

As federal officials continue to tweak passenger security screening at U.S. airports, more people could avoid hassle if they joined programs that let them use expedited lanes at checkpoints.

Better yet, there are ways to get that privilege without spending a dime. For example, some premium credit cards reimburse the $85 application fee for TSA Precheck or the $100 fee for Global Entry. Membership in these federal background-check programs lasts five years before you need to reapply.

Travelers who use the fast lanes typically say they’ll never go back, says Joe Brancatelli, a business travel writer and founder of travel site JoeSentMe.com. That’s the case even for infrequent flyers, he adds.

“I don’t think I can overstate the value of these programs,” he says. “And the more you travel, the more valuable they are.”

Over the summer, tightened airport security rules meant travelers in standard checkpoint lines had to remove electronics larger than cell phones from carry-on bags and place them in a separate bin for X-ray screening. Travelers in TSA Precheck lanes could leave electronics in their bags.

But the bigger advantages of the speedy security lanes are shorter waits and less intrusive screening; you can leave your shoes on, for example. In September, 96% of TSA Precheck passengers waited in line less than five minutes, according to the Transportation Security Administration. To date, more than 5 million people have enrolled in the program, which is available at 200 airports via 37 airlines.

Which program to choose

Global Entry costs $15 more and is less convenient to apply for: It requires a passport and an interview, available at fewer locations than TSA Precheck. But Global Entry includes TSA Precheck and offers expedited entry through U.S. customs when you return from a foreign country.

The cost difference — just $3 a year on average — probably isn’t that much of a factor, but convenience might be. Those who have a passport and live near a Global Entry interview center — typically larger airports — should consider that program. If you don’t live near a Global Entry center, don’t have a passport and rarely travel abroad, TSA Precheck may be the better option.

Application details are on the Global Entry and TSA Precheck websites.

Henry Harteveldt, a travel industry analyst at Atmosphere Research Group, says he can’t imagine traveling without a trusted traveler program. “These services have helped me save anywhere from five to as much as 20 minutes waiting in security screening lines,” he says.

A survey his firm conducted this year found that 91% of business airline travelers said expedited airport screening was “very important” or “somewhat important.” A similarly high percentage said expedited border crossing programs, such as Global Entry, were important.

Use a credit card to apply free

Several premium credit cards reimburse your application fee if you pay it with the card.

“I don’t know that it would swing your choice of credit card per se, but it is nice to know you had an elite card that rebated your fee,” Brancatelli says.

However, many such cards have high annual fees. A sampling:

●       Bank of America Premium Rewards credit card. Annual fee: $95.

●       U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite Card. Annual fee: $400.

●       Citi Prestige Card. Annual fee: $450.

●       Chase Sapphire Reserve. Annual fee: $450.

●       The Platinum Card from American Express. Annual fee: $550.

Also, some credit card and travel loyalty programs will let you use travel credits or rewards points to pay the application fee. And some airlines might offer reimbursement if you have elite frequent flyer status with them.

Fingerprints and photos

Besides cost and effort, another consideration with trusted traveler programs is your comfort level with handing over more information to the U.S. government, including fingerprints and a photo.

However, provided their personal information is kept secure, 81% of U.S. business passengers said they feel comfortable sharing it with airlines and other travel-related organizations if it results in better, less stressful journeys, according to Atmosphere Research Group’s study.

“The government knows all this stuff about you already,” Brancatelli says. “You’re not really giving up anything more.”

Passengers Want More Control Over Travel Experiene

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has announced the results of its 2017 Global Passenger Survey (GPS), which revealed that passengers expect technology to give them more personal control over their travel experience.

Based on 10,675 responses from around the globe, the survey provided insight into what passengers want from their air travel experience. Topping the list were:

  • Automation of more airport processes
  • A single identity token for all travel processes using biometric identification
  • Real-time information sent directly to personal devices
  • More efficient security – without having to remove or unpack personal items
  • More seamless  border control
  • Ready to go digital

Digital travel processes are the expectation and passengers want more. The GPS found that 82 percent of travelers would like to be able to use a digital passport on their smartphones for as many travel activities as possible, from booking flights to passing through the airport. Biometric identification systems were the technology of choice with 64 percent favoring biometric identifiers as their preferred travel token.

“Passengers want to use one single biometric identity token for all their travel transactions from booking flights to passing security and border control and picking up their bags. IATA’s One ID project is rapidly moving travel towards a day when a face, iris, or fingerprint will provide the key to a seamless travel experience. The technology exists. Its use in aviation needs to be accelerated. Governments need to take the lead by working with industry to establish a trusted framework and agreeing the global standards and security protocols needed to use the technology. One ID will not only make process more efficient for passengers but allow governments to utilize valuable resources more effectively” said Nick Careen, IATA’s senior vice president for Airport, Passenger, Cargo and Security, in a written release.

Passenger in Control

Passengers want to be able to do more of the airport processes themselves by taking advantage of the latest digital self-service options. Baggage was the top activity that passengers wanted more control over. The GPS found that 68 percent of those surveyed want to self-tag their bags with electronic bag-tags being the preferred option. In addition 48 percent of passengers wanted to self-drop their bag.

The survey found that the number of passengers using automated immigration gates and kiosks increased by 6 percent in 2017, reaching 58 percent with a satisfaction rate of 90 percent. Boarding the aircraft was another area in which passengers wanted to have more control with 72 percent of passengers preferring to self-board, an increase of 2 percent over 2016.

“Passengers have never been as empowered as they are today. Self-service solutions range from mobile check-in and bag drop, to self-boarding and automated border control. Smartphone- and tablet-toting, passengers want to use these mobile devices to control their travel experience. They expect easy access to the information they want, exactly when they need it in the travel process. Airlines and airports that make the most use of technological innovations will be giving a better travel experience to their customers,” said Pierre Charbonneau, IATA’s director Passenger and Facilitation.

Well-informed Passengers

Passengers want airlines and airports to keep them informed throughout their journey. The survey found that 85 percent of passengers want to be able to check the status of their flight and 50 percent want to track their bag throughout the trip. Passengers also wanted more information to help then plan their passage through the airport with 51 percent wanting to know wait times at security and border control and 58 percent wanting to know wait times at arrival customs, a 17 percent increase on 2016.

Providing more real-time information was also identified by 63 percent of passengers as the key to improving their experience during travel disruptions.

SMS messaging remains the preferred option for receiving travel notifications. However this trend is reversing with 28 percent of passenger preferring communication through smartphone apps and 26 percent through email.

“Passengers expect to get up-to-date information on all aspects of their journey with minimum effort, through their preferred channel. Offering this level of personalization is reliant on capturing, managing and understanding passenger data. But no single member of the travel ecosystem has the capability to optimize the end-to-end journey on their own. A global coordination framework is needed on how passenger data is shared, controlled and protected. The IATA personalization program aims to provide customers with trusted, accurate real-time information from all travel service providers throughout their journey,” said Charbonneau.

Passenger Pain Points

Passengers once again identified airport security and border control processes as two of their biggest pain points when travelling. The top frustrations were the intrusiveness of having to remove personal items (60%), the inconvenience of having to unpack electronic devices in carry-on bags (52%) and the variation in security screening procedures at different airports (47%).

To make security and border control areas as safe, effective and hassle-free as possible for passengers, the industry needs to embrace new Smart Security technology, the IATA said.

Bring Your Own Device

The GPS found that 42 percent of passengers, would prefer to use their own devices- Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) – to access inflight entertainment options. Greater connectivity promises to be a win for both the carriers and the passengers they carry.

“The importance of smartphone technology, the demand for more automation and personalization throughout the travel process and desire to stay connected is not new to aviation, however the GPS highlights the extent of the opportunities on offer and the need for airlines and airports and to invest significantly in this area. To satisfy travelers, airports and airlines will need to work together to provide passengers with easy-to-use mobile services, self-service options and one-stop security checks to make sure they meet this demand. But industry can’t achieve this alone. Government support is essential to change antiquated regulations before the industry can fully transform,” said Careen.

The latest IATA Global Passenger Survey (GPS) analyzed the comments from passengers from more than 152 countries across all regions in the world.

Source: IATA

The Future of Air Travel

Perhaps you’ve bumped into Mildred, Carla or Oscar on your recent travels. They’re not real people but avatars of chatbots – concocted by Lufthansa, Avianca and Air New Zealand respectively – or artificial intelligence (AI) powered computer programs accessed on your smartphone that enable you to have a simulated conversation of sorts. Now airports are getting in on the act, and it’s all part of a paradigm shift towards self-service and interactions with technologies that offer “personal” information to help us on our way through the terminal

It’s a shift confirmed in the findings of the Passenger IT Trends Survey released by Sita, the provider of much of the digital infrastructure that underpins airport and airline communications and operations worldwide. The survey found that face-to-face check-in is now down to 46 per cent of passengers, and since last year’s survey, self-service bag-tagging has risen from 31 per cent to 47 per cent. Almost a fifth of passengers now use self-service bag drop, and when it comes to ID control, 57 per cent of passengers would definitely use biometrics instead of a passport or boarding pass across the journey. Biometrics is just one of a handful of newish technologies that have matured to the point that they’re ripe for deployment, signifying a new era in airport experience.

AI, chatbots and messenger bots

With 98 per cent of passengers now flying with digital mobile devices, there’s never been a better time for airports to “get personal”. The uptake of Messenger, Facebook’s instant messaging app, has been so dramatic – Facebook announced in April that it has 1.2 billion users – that airlines and now airports want to reach their customers using this platform. Athens International Airport claimed, last September, to be the first airport in the world to implement a bot app through Facebook Messenger.

Augmented Reality

AR – the technology where you look at the real world through your smartphone or special glasses, and data, such as wayfinding information, is superimposed onto what you can see – has been around in the airport space since 2011. Copenhagen Airport launched the first airport app to use AR to enable passengers to find their way around the terminal and obtain information on restaurants and other facilities. But perhaps in 2011 walking around with a phone at the end of your outstretched arm wasn’t the norm and few other airports followed suit. A lack of consistent GSM or wifi signals might also explain why AR has been slow to catch on. But no such barriers seem to exist today: Gatwick Airport has installed 2,000 battery-powered beacons across the airport’s two terminals enabling AI-powered indoor navigation, integrated with Gatwick’s smartphone apps.

“We’re opening the door for a wide range of tech savvy airport providers, including our airlines and retailers, to launch new real-time services that can help passengers find their way around the airport, avoid missing flights or receive timely offers that might save them money,” said Abhi Chacko, Gatwick Airport’s head of IT, commercial and innovation.

 

The robots are coming
Conversing with robots, as we’ll increasingly do with airport chatbots, is not the only interaction we’ll see at terminals; robots of the more physical variety have been undergoing early stage trials in this space too. Meet Kate (yes, another personable avatar). The invention of Sita Labs, Kate is an intelligent check-in robotic kiosk that autonomously moves to busy or congested areas of the terminal as needed. It uses data related to passenger flow at the airport to reposition itself, thereby reducing passenger wait times.

 

Don’t Sleep During Take Off or Landing

When a plane ascends into the air or descends into its destination, the air pressure in the cabin changes rapidly with the altitude — and if you’re not properly prepared to acclimatize, it can wreak havoc on your eardrums.

As British pharmacist Angela Chalmers explained to Express: “A quick change in altitude affects the air pressure in the ear. This leads to a vacuum in the Eustachian tubes which makes the ears feel blocked and sound dull.”

“Try not to sleep during takeoff and descent as you will not be swallowing as frequently and this can lead to blocked ears,” she said.

According to MedlinePlus, a health information site by the US National Library of Medicine, if your ears stay blocked, it can create a number of health issues — such as dizziness, ear infections, eardrum damage, and at worst, nosebleeds and hearing loss.

Staying awake during takeoff and landing to pop your ears helps to “equalize” the air pressure on your ear drums.

“Swallowing or yawning opens the Eustachian tube and allows air to flow into or out of the middle ear. This helps equalise pressure on either side of the ear drum,” MedlinePlus states. “If the Eustachian tube is blocked, the air pressure in the middle ear is different than the pressure on the outside of the eardrum.”

Chewing gum, drinking water, sucking on a lolly or blowing your nose are other ways to prevent your ears from blocking the next time you fly.

This article originally appeared on News.com.au

Keep That Vent Open

(published in Travel and Leisure Magazine)

The next time you go to turn off the ventilation above your seat on an airplane — whether because you’re afraid of getting sick or you’re downright chilly — you ight want to reconsider.

 Using that tiny vent can actually work to your advantage, as it can help you avoid contact with certain microorganisms that can get you sick during a flight.

Travel + Leisure spoke to Dr. Mark Gendreau — the medical director and vice chair of emergency medicine at Lahey Medical Center-Peabody, and an expert on the spread of infectious diseases associated with air travel — to learn how it works and how travelers can best utilize the that little air conditioner.

“Ventilation on airplanes has gotten a bad reputation, but it’s completely unfounded,” Gendreau told T+L.

The flow pattern of air on an aircraft doesn’t necessarily work front to back, or back to front. It’s actually compartmentalized into various sections on the aircraft,” Gendreau said.

“As a rule of thumb, the air that you’re typically breathing and exposed to is usually anywhere from two to five rows surrounding your seat,” he added.

Here’s how the ventilation systems work.

Each of these sections (known as temperature control zones), receives air from overhead distribution nozzles that flow through the length of the cabin. The air exits the plane through a grill that’s often located beneath the windows, or where the side walls meet the floor of the plane.

This air then combines with the air outside before going through a HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) to clear away dust and microbes before re-entering the plane.

The number of these ventilation zones varies depending on the aircraft, but each zone typically goes through this filtration process 15 to 30 times within the hour, with 50 percent of the air getting re-circulated and 50 percent of the air coming from outside, according to Gendreau.

The systems were primarily designed during the time when smoking was permitted on flights, Gendreau said, meaning airlines had to come up with an efficient and regular filtration system for their ventilation to clear the smoke from the cabins.

For this reason, HEPA filters can remove more than 99 percent of dust and microbes in the air, Gendreau said, though there are times where you’ll want to turn to your personal vent.

“For airborne viruses, it is incredibly important to ventilate, since ventilation becomes your main means of control besides isolating the affected person,” Gendreau said.

Airborne viruses, like tuberculosis and measles, are transmitted by tiny droplet nuclei that can hang in the air for up to five hours, Gendreau said.

While viruses associated with the common cold and upper respiratory track infections tend to be larger in size and heavier (consequently falling to the floor rather quickly), these particles linger. Which is where your vent comes in.

By using the vent and turning it on medium or low, you can create an invisible air barrier around you that creates turbulence — simultaneously blocking these particles and forcing them to the ground faster.

Planes also have low humidity, which means your mucous membrane can dry out on during a flight. When this happens, you’re more susceptible to contracting a virus, which is why keeping them away becomes all the more important.

And because those heavy common cold particles can still travel up to six feet every time you cough, sneeze, or speak, it’s equally important to wipe down and avoid touching surfaces (like that tray table you were probably resting your head on).

How to Advoid Airplane Issues

(Recently posted in Travel Agent)

 

Booking a last-minute summer trip, but worried about the hassles of air travel? From time crunch and flight delays to waiting lines and cumbersome carry-on luggage, airplane travel can stress even the most seasoned traveler.

In honor of National Aviation Week, which takes place during the third week of August, Sharon Schweitzer, an international etiquette expert, author, and the founder of Access to Culture (www.protocolww.com), who is also a frequent international flyer, offers this advice on the most common air travel issues and how to resolve them:

Security Checkpoint: To minimize time spent at the security checkpoint, be prepared and travel light, minimizing obstacles to safe, smooth travel. Make the security checkpoint go by quickly by emptying pockets ahead of time, removing laptop from bags, and removing shoes and belts to not only make it faster for you, but for those behind you. Also make sure that all liquids are in the appropriately sized containers before heading to the airport.  Remember to always be kind and respectful to others because everyone has a flight to catch too- not just you.

TSA Hold Up: While TSA screenings are an important safety measure, the long lines and extra time spent during bag searches and pat-downs can be a hassle. Remember that being compliant will get you on the plane faster. Answer any questions the officer may have and be willing to have your bags searched. Any reluctance to do so could cause suspicion and may take more of your time.

Overbooked Airplanes: Airlines often compensate passengers who volunteer to give up their seat by paying for all expenses such as hotel and meals, in addition to giving them a flight voucher. If you are in absolutely no rush to get to your destination, it may be something to consider. However, if youre one of the ones chosen to give up your seat, but you have to be on that flight for other commitments, explain your situation and politely refuse, all while maintaining an amicable tone.

Overweight Baggage: If a crew member at the check-in desk tells you that your bag is overweight and you have to pay an extra fee, kindly ask if you can step aside to take some of your belongings out and place them in another bag or suitcase. Once they give you the okay, look behind you and signal to the next person in line that they can go. This proper airline etiquette will ensure youre being conscious of others time.

Passenger Clash: If you have a small disagreement with another passenger, first try to resolve it among yourselves. If the problem escalates or continues, ask the flight attendant for assistance. In matters such as putting your tray up and down, turning off you phone or any other flight procedure, you should not question the crew. However, if there is a customer service concern, you can politely speak to the head staff.

Crying Children: Crying infants should be tolerated; the mother wants them to stop crying way more than you do. Refrain from giving the parents long glares- they know their child is being loud and your stare wont stop it. In the case of older children, try blocking them out with headphones or earmuffs before talking to the parents if the problem persists.

Uncomfortable Arrangements: You have a right to be comfortable, and issues such as seat-kicking, inconsiderate neighbors, and loud media should be addressed by a flight attendant. The staff is trained on how to deal with these problems in the most inoffensive way possible. Tell a member of the crew about your problem and they will take care of it.

Delta and Jet Blue use Biometrics for Identification

(article was recently in New York Times)

Two United States air carriers, Delta Air Lines and JetBlue, recently began passenger trials in biometric identification, a technology that verifies a person’s identity through fingerprints, facial features or other physical characteristics.

In early June, JetBlue, teaming up with United States Customs and Border Protection, introduced optional self-boarding on flights from Logan International Airport in Boston to Beatrix International Airport in Aruba. The process requires no boarding pass and takes about three seconds, said Joanna Geraghty, JetBlue’s executive vice president for customer experience.

Fliers who choose to try it out step up to a camera at the boarding gate for a quick photo. This image is matched with passport, visa or immigration photos in the Customs and Border Protection database, and once flight details and identity are confirmed, a check mark appears on the camera and fliers can board the plane. So far, more than 90 percent of passengers are using this self-boarding process, Ms. Geraghty said, and if the trial is successful, the airline plans to expand biometric identification to more flights.

“The technology is revolutionary because your face becomes your passport and travel document,” she said. (These boarding processes, however, are not a replacement for the security screening done by the Transportation Security Administration.)

Delta is using biometric identification to allow fliers to check their own bags at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, the airline’s second-largest hub after Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. The airline invested $600,000 in four self-service bag drop machines equipped with biometric technology; a passport is needed to use it.

Passengers print out their luggage stickers at a check-in kiosk and then head to one of the bag drop machines, where they scan their passports and have their picture taken by the machine. Once the images on their passports are matched with the images from the machine and their identities are confirmed, they place their bags on the belt; the machine weighs the bags and moves them on.

Gareth Joyce, the company’s senior vice president for airport customer experience, said the process took around 30 seconds.

Best Airlines In The World

Given the recent news about a United Airlines passenger being forcibly dragged off a plane, many travelers are wondering which airlines they can trust. Luckily, TripAdvisor just announced the winners of its first annual Travelers’ Choice awards for airlines, revealing travelers’ favorite carriers in the U.S. and around the globe.

Matej Kastelic / Shutterstock

TripAdvisor reveals the best airlines in the U.S and world.

The 50 award winners were determined using an algorithm that took into account the quantity and quality of airline reviews and ratings submitted by travelers worldwide, over a yearlong period. Factors including outstanding service, quality and value were all taken into consideration when tabulating the list.

Top Ten Airlines in the World

1. Emirates, United Arab Emirates

2. Singapore Airlines, Singapore

3. Azul, Brazil

4. JetBlue, United States

5. Air New Zealand, New Zealand

6. Korean Air, South Korea

7. Japan Airlines, Japan

8. Thai Smile, Thailand

9. Alaska Airlines, United States

10. Garuda Indonesia, Indonesia

Class of Service Global Winners

Best First Class: Emirates, United Arab Emirates

Best Business Class: Aeroflot, Russia

Best Premium Economy Class in the World: Air New Zealand, New Zealand

Best Economy Class in the World: Emirates, United Arab Emirates

North America Awards

Top Major Airline: Delta Air Lines, United States

Top Midsize & Low-Cost Airlines:

1. JetBlue, United States

2. Alaska Airlines, United States

3. Southwest, United States

4. Virgin America, United States

5. Westjet, Canada

How to Keep From Being Bumped

A new survey by Virtuoso reveals advice from professional travel advisors on how to cope with airline disruptions, including the much reported-on bumping situation that occurred on board United Flight 3411 in April. Virtuoso advisors recommend a multifaceted approach to protecting passengers from being bumped involuntarily, and insights on what to do if passengers unexpectedly find themselves in that situation.

Respondents to the newest Virtuoso Flash Survey reveal their top tips for guarding against bumping:

  • Establish status with a specific airline and fly it or within its alliance partners whenever possible
  • Reserve seat assignments as soon as the flight is booked
  • Check-in online 24 hours before the flight to reconfirm seats
  • Avoid sitting in the very front or back rows of Economy Class as these seats may be displaced in the event of an equipment downsize on domestic U.S. flights. The last row is often reserved for families traveling with small children as well.

Virtuoso’s travel advisors say that bumping passengers against their will rarely happens, and only 30 percent of respondents said it had happened to their clients. However, should passengers find themselves in this situation, the network’s expert advisors suggest the following:

  • Insist the airline rebook the next available flight, even on another airline
  • Comply with the request but politely ask for more compensation than what the airline is offering
  • Contact their travel advisor for assistance
  • Ask for a credit card-issued gift card instead of an airline voucher, especially if not a frequent traveler

While 28 percent of respondents said that their clients have asked them to book other carriers as a direct result of the United Airlines incident, the majority have not. Reasons cited for why people will not move away from any particular airline in the wake of a publicized situation include:

  • Certain airlines dominate specific routes and airports, leaving clients to feel like they’re without other viable options
  • The airline’s schedule best suits their travel plans
  • Clients have status on the airline or its partner airlines, and do not wish to establish loyalty with another carrier or alliance
  • Clients understand involuntary passenger bumping is not limited to any one airline

What Do Piliots Do On Long Trips?

(This article was recently posted in Conde Nast Magazine.  I found it interesting about what pilots do on long trips)
When the plane takes off, the work is only just beginning.

For most people, long flights are something to be endured with the help of sleeping masks, movies, and free mini bottles of wine. But while passengers are trying to relax and mentally check out, pilots are doing just the opposite. Even after takeoff, there’s still plenty to do.

But what, exactly? In fact, they wear many hats.

Meteorologist and Communicator

“When we’re speeding over the globe, we are going well over 500 miles per hour, and we are in an incredibly hostile environment,” says Nick Anderson, a London-based captain for an international airline.

WHERE YOU SHOULD EAT IN AUSTRALIA

Specifically? The outside air temperature is -76 degrees Fahrenheit, and the air is so thin that a person sitting on the wing would be dead in less than a minute. Not to mention that the plane is soaring over huge population centers, oceans that take hours to cross, and brutal terrain that would make a rapid descent impossible.

“Nature is impassive. It doesn’t care if you are there or not,” Anderson says. “So while you’re sipping your champagne, all of that is just inches away from you.”

Though flight paths are set ahead of departure, pilots determine mid-flight if a change—or slight re-routing—is needed.

“Weather is a huge problem for us on the long flights,” says Anderson, noting that on a single flight, a plane often passes through three or four weather systems, varying in type, intensity, and level of difficulty. “You can’t really sit back and relax. Going as fast as we are, you come upon these weather systems very, very quickly. We give thunderstorms a wide berth, and that requires traffic clearance.”

Most of the major airlines, too, have installed advanced weather mapping technology that gives details well beyond a red blob on a screen. This, along with weather reports from air traffic control, means turbulence is often anticipated. But pilots also rely on other pilots, flying aircraft ahead of them on their same route, for reports of clear air turbulence, which cannot be picked up by any radar, or other unexpected problems.

There are multiple radio systems for airplane pilots. One pilot is responsible for talking to air traffic control if they need to change course to avoid a thunderstorm; the other is manning the air-to-air communication between airplanes on their same flight path. Across remote areas of air space such as the Atlantic, Anderson says, there is a common air-to-air frequency that they listen on: These radio conversations offer anecdotal details about the severity and duration of any issues—and sometimes, even baseball scoresreceived from dispatchers on the ground.

Counselor and Diplomat

Once the aircraft doors close, the captain is responsible for all personnel issues that may arise, and is legally the primary authority. While the laws governing jurisdiction can get complicated, the captain’s authority is upheld by multiple international agreements, like the Tokyo Convention of 1963 and the Montreal Convention of 1999. He or she has the final word on whether or not a passenger situation requires a flight diversion for safety reasons.

Analyst and Engineer

Much of the work pilots do is strategic. Airplanes are complicated machines, and there are numerous gauges and systems to monitor, from engine oil pressure to hydraulic fluid contents to air conditioning ducts (making sure the guy in seat 32B isn’t too hot).

“We don’t really want to land with excess fuel, because you have to burn more fuel to carry more fuel,” Anderson says. Put simply? Aircraft don’t carry an abundance of extra fuel—instead, it’s up to the pilots to do calculations throughout the flight to make sure they have enough fuel to reach their destination. In the off chance they miscalculate, the pilots will divert to a closer airfield for refueling before taking off for the final destination.

Not only is it the amount of fuel important, but so is the fuel’s temperature. The outside air can be so cold that some of the fuel tanks may cool down to dangerous levels, restricting its flow. The pilot monitors these gauges and can move cold fuel into inner tanks where the temperature is warmer.

While one pilot is monitoring all the systems, the other is doing all the paperwork. The pilots are given a written flight plan before departure, and this pilot is responsible for making notes on the paper of any changes to that plan throughout the duration of the flight. These notes are so detailed, Anderson says, that an inspector should be able to recreate the aircraft’s exact flight path based on the paperwork.