Airplanes on taxiway
Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Nine “Dirty Secrets” of the Travel Industry? Not to Members of FlyerTalk

Here is another one of those “listicles” — or articles in the form of some list that someone threw together. This one purports to reveal nine “dirty secrets” of the travel industry, as posted by Caroline Morse of SmarterTravel.

Nine “Dirty Secrets” of the Travel Industry? Not to Members of FlyerTalk

If you have been a FlyerTalk member for years, you most likely already knew most or all of them anyway, so — just for fun and laughs — let us run down this list and dissect it, FlyerTalk-style:

1. Airlines Lie About Estimated Arrival Times

For many years, FlyerTalk members have known how the airlines “pad” their arrival times in anticipation of unexpected delays — such as circling an airport due to heavy airplane traffic until permission is received to land the aircraft — in order to still declare the flight as “on time” once the airplane lands.
FlyerTalk member Mountain Trader declared arrival times to airports by flights operated by US Airways as “asinine” back in July of 2003; and FlyerTalk member starflyer questioned the arrival times displayed on monitors in airports pertaining to flights operated by American Airlines greater than nine years ago and wondered if they were “misleading.”
These are just two of many examples of discussions by FlyerTalk members about how airlines “lie” about estimated arrival times — although I wonder if the word “lie” is rather strong.

2. There Are Really Only Three Rental-Car Companies In America

Really? That would be news to me, if I had not posted that Avis Budget Group announced its purchase of Zipcar — a popular car sharing service — back in January of 2013 here at The Gate; as well as the following when I asked whether or not lodging companies should form alliances similar to airlines back in August of 2013:

“Even car rental companies are getting into the alliance act. Enterprise Rent-A-Car, National Car Rental and Alamo Rent A Car have recently formed something called the Drive Alliance, where it appears that reciprocal benefits between all three frequent renter loyalty programs will be enjoyed by members.
“Then again, it certainly does not hurt that all three rental car companies are owned by the same company known as Enterprise Holdings — so the only question I have about this ‘alliance’ is why it was not launched sooner.
“Did you know that there are actually only three major rental car companies serving the United States after Hertz Global Holdings acquired Dollar Thrifty Automotive Group in 2012? Perhaps Hertz Global Holdings and Avis Budget Group should follow the lead of Enterprise Holdings and form their own ‘alliances’ between the rental car companies in their respective portfolios — but I digress.”

Ironically, the rental car company which I prefer to use is National Car Rental; yet I avoid Alamo and Enterprise whenever possible — and all three are part of the same company. I disagree with the “listicle” posted at SmarterTravel — despite there being only three rental car companies in the United States, you do have choices.

3. Your Plane Is Probably Old

Yeah — and so what?!?
Back in April of last year, a Boeing 737-800 airplane operated by Lion Air crashed into shallow water in the sea — and that new aircraft had only been in service for fewer than six weeks…
…and let us not even delve on the problems which have plagued the fleet of Boeing 787 “Dreamliner” airplanes — all of which are relatively new compared to other models of commercial aircraft.
According to this recent discussion on FlyerTalk, a Boeing 757-200 aircraft operated by Delta Air Lines lost a wing panel. “I’m not sure if this has been discussed on here or not, but isn’t Delta’s ..unwillingness to invest in new aircraft a thought in anyone’s mind when issues like this occur?”, asked FlyerTalk member JulienMSP.
My answer is no. I have personally visited the Technical Operations Center at Delta Air Lines numerous times; and I can tell you that I am confident that aircraft operated by Delta Air Lines will transport me safely whenever I fly on their airplanes as a passenger. Furthermore, the reputation of the Technical Operations Center is well known, as other airlines contract to have their airplanes maintained and repaired in Atlanta — even if Atlanta is not one of the destinations those airlines may serve.
While I have not visited the technical operations centers of other major airlines and therefore cannot personally vouch for them, I cannot imagine that they are any less diligent about the maintenance of their fleets of aircraft to ensure the safety of passengers and flight crews.
Although it may certainly be nicer to be a passenger on a newer aircraft, by no means are you necessarily safer. The age of a commercial airplane is certainly not the only factor pertaining to safety. Proper maintenance and the experience of the flight crew are two factors which are far more important, in my opinion.

4. Some Cruise Lines Are Harming The Environment

FlyerTalk member tcook052 posted a discussion back on July 12, 2010 pertaining to emission controls which were being planned in order to protect the coasts of Canada — specifically, the lowering of the level of sulphur permitted in fuel used within 200 nautical miles of land — possibly threatening the multi-million-dollar cruise ship industry in Canada; and the United States had reached a joint agreement with Canada to implement similar policies.
A cruise ship released more than 40 tons of raw sewage into the Strait of Juan de Fuca in the state of Washington back in 2003, according to this discussion launched by FlyerTalk member 0524.
Additional statistics of practices deemed unfriendly to the environment can be found in this discussion on FlyerTalk posted back in August of 2010, which include that the Environmental Protection Agency of the United States estimated that passengers aboard a typical cruise ship will generate:

  • 21,000 gallons of sewage
  • One ton of garbage
  • 170,000 gallons of wastewater from sinks, showers and laundry
  • Greater than 25 pounds of batteries, fluorescent lights, medical wastes and expired chemicals — based on average fleet data from 1999 and 2000
  • Up to 6,400 gallons of oily bilge water from engines
  • Four plastic bottles per passenger; or approximately 8,500 plastic bottles per day

Atlantis Bahamas cruise ships
Photograph ©2010 by Brian Cohen.

Additionally, cruise ships incinerate 75 to 85 percent of their garbage, according to the Environmental Protection Agency of the United States from a study conducted in 2008.
These are only three of a number of discussions posted on FlyerTalk which highlight how some cruise ship companies are potentially harming the environment.

5. Pilots Are Overworked And Underpaid

Regardless of whether that is true or not, FlyerTalk members know this mantra well by the minimum of 122 discussions I found on FlyerTalk — the oldest one posted in February of 2000 — dedicated to the discussion of pilots talking about going on strike on many different commercial airlines over the years. There are too many discussions to mention here; and that is not including any general discussions about how pilots are overworked and underpaid — certainly no “dirty secret” to members of FlyerTalk.
In fact, the latest discussion pertaining to the possibility of pilots going on strike was posted within this past week regarding the 92 percent of members of the Vereinigung Cockpit union for pilots in Germany who voted to use strikes as an option — and work stoppages could commence at any time. Watch for possible labor actions to occur this year if you plan on flying as a passenger aboard commercial aircraft operated by Lufthansa.
Still, I would like to defer this one to Patrick Smith — a pilot who has contributed content to FlyerTalk and is the founder of Ask the Pilot.

6. Hotel Beds Are Disgusting

Blood found on a pillowcase at a hotel property in 2008? Worn mattresses and pillows stained with sweat as only a few of the many disgusting results of an investigation back in 2012? Bed sheets stained with blood found by a couple back in 2004? Nasty stains found on a comforter by FlyerTalk member thegrailer back in November of 2009?
FlyerTalk members arguably know more about how disgusting are the beds found in hotel rooms around the world, as these are only a few of countless discussions over the past 15 years where FlyerTalk members either express their disgust or report on news articles…
…and that does not even include the numerous discussions on FlyerTalk pertaining to bed bugs — such as this example which was first launched in August of 2004 and is still being discussed within the past week.

7. Flight Attendants May Delay Your Flight On Purpose

I think I will leave this one to Sarah Steegar, who is a flight attendant and the author of the Crewed Talk weblog here on FlyerTalk. What are your thoughts, Sarah?

8. Some Hotel Housekeepers Polish Glasses With Furniture Polish

Last year, I posted an article here at The Gate which discusses why you probably should not drink from glasses provided by the hotel property in your room — along with a video of an investigative report from November of 2007 — as well as suggestions pertaining to what you should consider doing instead.
That article is certainly more informative than a blurb briefly describing how the glasses in your hotel room are “cleaned” with furniture polish. The problem can actually be far worse than that. Read my article — as well as click on the links provided in it — and find out for yourself.

9. Airplane Water Might Not Be Safe To Drink

Forget about “tests conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency of the United States a few years ago.” Zach Bjornson-Hooper — also known as FlyerTalk member T-wiz and the son of FlyerTalk member l’etoiletook samples of water from different commercial aircraft on a trip back in 2002 and used them as part of a science project at the age of 13 years old. His persistence and innovative results found — among other things — insect eggs that days later in the lab hatched into maggots; and The Wall Street Journal published his experiments and findings.
I briefly revisited the potability of water aboard commercial aircraft in this short article posted on June 25, 2010 here at The Gate.


My advice to you is that if you really need to drink water while aboard an airplane during a flight, ask for bottled water if the airline provides it. You may be out of luck, however, if you prefer hot drinks such as coffee — unless the water is hot enough to kill any potentially dangerous bacteria and other contaminants.

Back in June of last year, I poked fun at another “listicle” posted at the Internet web site of SmarterTravel.
I first stumbled upon this “listicle” through the Point Me To The Plane weblog at, initially wondering why The Gate was receiving an unusual amount of readers being referred from this article. I did not realize at first that the “listicle” posted at the Internet web site of SmarterTravel was originally posted on August 23, 2013. Regardless, I could not resist dissecting it anyway, as although some “listicles” can actually be informative and fun to read, this one is little more than a sensationalist piece with old information — at least, possibly old to you if you happen to be a member of FlyerTalk.
Why limit the list of “dirty secrets” to only nine? If you were to create a list of “dirty secrets” of travel, what items would be included on your list?

All photographs ©2010 and ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

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