Home Travel The Real Reason Why It’s So Cold On Planes

The Real Reason Why It’s So Cold On Planes

by SharonKurheg

We’ve all been there…you board your plane and are going somewhere nice and warm, so you’re dressed for where you’re landing. Probably shorts and a T-shirt.

As you get all settled for your 3-hour flight, you notice it’s a little chilly inside the plane. But you figure it’s because the passenger door is still open, it’s cold outside, and the air from outside is blowing in. It’ll warm up once you get on your way.

The plane takes off and as you sit there, you realize it’s still pretty darn cold inside the plane. It never does warm up and by the time you land in sunny, warm Pick A Place, you’re freezing.

So what’s up with that? Why is it so cold on planes? It turns out there’s an actual, medically-based reason, way above and beyond the pilot is in the midst of her “changes” and is prone to hot flashes, or a flight attendant having a sadistic streak. 😉

ASTM International (formerly known as American Society for Testing and Materials), is an international standards organization that develops and publishes voluntary consensus technical standards for a wide range of materials, products, systems, and services. Including planes. They conducted a study that looked into the correlation between people fainting while in the air, and planes’ cabin pressure and temperature.

They discovered that the risk of people fainting (the medical term is “syncope” [SINK-oh-pee]) in-flight was about 3–9 per 1000 passenger flight hours, depending on the type of aircraft. They also realized this was happening because of a medical condition known as hypoxia. Hypoxia is when body tissues don’t receive enough oxygen, and ASTM International’s study determined that high cabin pressure and warm temperatures can both increase the chance of this reaction, even in otherwise healthy people.

Airlines (obviously) can’t do anything about the cabin pressure, but they can keep the cabin temperatures on the cooler side to help decrease the risk of syncope.

At what temperature do they keep planes?

Despite the study and its findings, federal entities don’t have any specific guidelines of what temperature the inside of a plane cabin should be. However the Association of Flight Attendants, the union representing 50,000 members working at more than 20 airlines, has been campaigning for years to get the federal government to put standards in place for cabin temperatures (The only temperature regulation now requires the cabin temperature to be within 5 degrees of the cockpit. But it doesn’t set minimums or maximums). They recommend a range of 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

Of course, the fact that you tend not to move around, and just stay in one space, just reinforces feeling cold. If you were moving around the plane, you wouldn’t feel the chilliness as badly.

Oh, and if you could swear that planes used to be warmer years ago, you’d be right. The study was done in 2005 and published in 2008.

So if you tend to get chilly easily, bring a sweater with you on that plane. Just in case.

Feature Photo (cropped): Wyoming Dep’t of Health

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary

1 comment

Matthew October 26, 2022 - 9:59 pm

Also people who are always cold know to always bring a coat or pullover. As someone who is always hot on a plane if I disrobe I will be arrested

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