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Ventilation/Air conditioning question

Quebec City
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Ventilation/Air conditioning question

This is maybe a silly question, but something that has been bothering me for a while, and so I thought TA experts who really know airplanes might shed some light on this.

In 2010, my parents were on a roundtrip Air Transat flight (YUL to BSL). In both directions, they ended up being very hot on the plane. My mother tells of feeling almost sick from the heat, no fresh air, etc. The story even includes reports of people fainting from the heat. They were seated towards the front of the plane (but in regular economy), and apparently, the people in the back were completely freezing. Their conclusion is that the FA were increasing the heat for the back freezing passengers, while everyone in the front was dying (metaphorically) from the heat.

Now based on this SINGLE occurrence, they have now decided to always reserve seats at the back of planes on their future travels, because they are convinced the air is fresher in the back.

I've never openly contradicted their conclusions or decision of future seat choices, but I've always figured this might have been an isolated occurrence, maybe a problem with the ventilation or something?

My question to the board is two-fold:

1) Is there any truth to their belief that they are less likely to be hot if sitting in the back of the plane?

2) What kind of control over cabin temperature do FAs actually have anyway? Can their idea of FAs increasing the heat for freezing passengers in the back, causing them to feel even more heat in the front, have any kind of ground to stand on?

Thank you!

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1. Re: Ventilation/Air conditioning question

Perhaps there was a problem with the ventilation system on your parents' plane is one reason. The only times I've had issues were on British Airways' 747 aircraft seated in Economy in rows towards the back when the temperature became extremely cold. Obviously many complained of the cold so much that the FA on duty made a passing comment that the heat was being turned up. Then it felt too hot at times. Maybe there system was also faulty not sure. Not sure if the FA's have control of setting the temperature nor if one part of the plane felt cold when the other part felt heat. Can only speak of where I sat.

Edited: 03 September 2014, 00:38
Lake Crystal...
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607 posts
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2. Re: Ventilation/Air conditioning question

The last flight I was on with complainers, they were in the front, complaining it was too cold. Your parents' situation sounds like a one-time mechanical problem, nothing to extrapolate generalities from.

Vancouver, Canada
Destination Expert
for London
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3. Re: Ventilation/Air conditioning question

'Is there any truth to their belief that they are less likely to be hot if sitting in the back of the plane?' I don't think so. If crew set the temps in the Economy cabins on their Airbus A330s to 20C then with about 150 or 160 pax in those cabins, each pax with a body temp of about 37C it is going to be warm in the cabins, period.

What kind of control over cabin temperature do FAs actually have anyway? Can their idea of FAs increasing the heat for freezing passengers in the back, causing them to feel even more heat in the front, have any kind of ground to stand on?' Crew can control the temperatures in the passenger cabins, at least they can (and do) on BA. I find most flights far too warm, and when I have asked crew to make adjustments they have been willing to do so.

Having said this, again each cabin should have its own temperature control, so on the A330 it should be possible for those in rows 14 to 32 to feel warmer / cooler than those in rows 36 to 49. I have found that some IFE systems are very warm as well; the screens are small but they are hot little b*ggers.

Sunshine Coast...
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4. Re: Ventilation/Air conditioning question

Most long haul flights I've been on have been either too hot or too cold (sometimes both in the same flight!) for me. I find that planes are often hot when you first board but that the temperature will drop once the flight commences.

So now I dress in layers when I fly - regardless of my origin or destination I will wear comfortable long pants and a short sleeve shirt/blouse. I will have a light fleece or hoodie and a scarf or sarong to use as an additional blanket. If blankets aren't automatically provided on the seats I always ask for one as soon as I board rather than wait until I get cold. On LCCs where they aren't provided I bring my own.

I also have either a small hand fan (if I'm going somewhere hot where I will use it) or else I use the menu, magazine or some paper to make my own fan. I also take my own small water bottle which I fill after security (as long as I'm flying from somewhere that you can drink the water!) so that I can have a drink at any time without having to ask for water.

I have also experienced different sections of the plane being different temperatures but there has never been a pattern. Sometimes the front is hotter than the back and sometimes it is colder.

That's just the way it is.

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5. Re: Ventilation/Air conditioning question

The coldest I have EVER been was in the emergency exit row of an AC A330. Almost unbearable.

Bloomfield, New York
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6. Re: Ventilation/Air conditioning question

I was in the first row on a UA express and we were all over-heating. The FA - which had been unpleasant from the moment we boarded - said that, even though she dressed in layers, was always cold so she kept the temperature warm. How pleasant for the customers!! Anyway, not sure she really had control of it or not, but how rude!

Vancouver, Canada
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7. Re: Ventilation/Air conditioning question

Pilots have control of the ventilation system on the aircraft.

Berkshire, England
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8. Re: Ventilation/Air conditioning question

We usually sit at the rear of aircraft and have been both boiling hot and freezing cold. There seems to be no pattern. We always wear layers and take things off/put them on accordingly. You will see some people under blankets and wearing coats/hoodies in the same section of the aircraft as people in shirt sleeves and shorts!!!

Destination Expert
for London
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77 reviews
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9. Re: Ventilation/Air conditioning question

There is no hard and fast pattern. I do think central aircon has made flying harder (too hot/cold). I recently had a BA flight (middle of the plane) which was like a sauna. And most PAX were visibly too warm (red faced/sweaty) but one woman still managed to sit swaddled in a blanket as if in the Arctic.

It is best to ask the FA to turn down the thermostat - there may be a tussle - there was on a flight from Dubai (also BA) I was on but the cooler temps won. I try and get exit rows (doors, wings don't apply) as it's generally cooler but availability/securing them isn't always possible.

Nuremberg, Germany
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10. Re: Ventilation/Air conditioning question

It depends on the aircraft model if temperature can be controlled for individual zones. For e.g. the 737 it even depends on the model. The 737-800 has separate controls for the cockpit, forward and rear cabin whereas the 737-300 and 500 have only individual controls for the cockpit and the entire passenger cabin.

For models with only one temperature zone for the entire cabin the front tends to be a bit warmer. This is because planes usually fly with a slight nose up pitch and, as warm air is lighter than cold air, the warm air moves towards the highest point (front) and the cold to the lowest point (back).

I experienced an extreme case on a small, narrow (1-1 seat configuration) turboprop plane where I was sitting at the back and was freezing, with ice crystals forming on the inside of the window. At the same time passengers at the front took of their jackets and sat in their short sleeved T-shirts. When we descended for landing and the plane took the nose down, a rush of very warm air hit me from the front.