9 Surprising Stories About Air Travel (In Case You’re Delayed)


In keeping with the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA), greater than 2.9 million individuals traveled by air within the United States on the Sunday after Thanksgiving 2023—greater than on any day within the historical past of the airplane. That quantity broke a report set lower than 5 months earlier, on the Friday earlier than the Fourth of July, and the brand new report could not final lengthy: Trade analysts predict the Friday earlier than Christmas 2003 will likely be one other blockbuster. So we took a visit of our personal, into the Atlas Obscura archives for wonderful tales of all things airplane that will help you move the time within the TSA line.

by Dan Nosowitz

What’s the take care of the airplane seat belt? It’s not like different seat belts. It’s a lap belt solely, in two items, secured by an industrial-feeling flip-flop buckle that sits instantly within the middle of the lap. Automobile seat belts usually are not like this. Even race automobile seat belts usually are not like this. In fact, no other modern seat belt is like this. Surprisingly, this can be a query few individuals wish to reply.

Clara Adams was known as the "first flighter" and the "maiden of maiden voyages," and she became a good luck charm to pilots and passengers alike.
Clara Adams was referred to as the “first flighter” and the “maiden of maiden voyages,” and she or he grew to become a great luck allure to pilots and passengers alike. ILLUSTRATION: EDUARDO RAMÓN FOR ATLAS OBSCURA; (ADAMS) BETTMANN/GETTY IMAGES

by April White

“The idea that planes would carry passengers—it wasn’t a given,” historian Barbara Ganson, of Florida Atlantic College, says of the early days of flight. “Even the army wasn’t satisfied it was a good suggestion.” Enter Clara Adams, “the maiden of maiden voyages,” who held tickets for each main inaugural flight via the daybreak of air journey, and helped convince the general public to give flying a try. You’ll be able to thank her subsequent time there’s a delay.

by Susannah Edelbaum

When Berlin’s Tegel “Otto Lilienthal” Airport shuttered in 2020 one aircraft remained: a decrepit Boeing 707 that survived a 1970 hijacking and an undercover flight into West Berlin, however not a long time of publicity to the weather, with solely a stand of pine timber on the fringe of the airport for shelter.

Nik Sennhauser plated this Japanese breakfast on his set of vintage Japan Airlines dishware.
Nik Sennhauser plated this Japanese breakfast on his set of classic Japan Airways dishware. COURTESY NIK SENNHAUSER

by Anne Ewbank, Senior Affiliate Editor, Gastro Obscura

Air journey is commonly one thing to be endured, not loved, particularly relating to meals. In the US, we’ve all gotten grimly accustomed to gritty cookies and overpriced bins of shelf-stable jerky and rubbery cheese—however that’s not what’s on the menu in all places on the planet and it wasn’t at all times like this. Air-travel fanatic Nik Sennhauser has got down to show it to skeptical American vacationers, devoting his Instagram feed to recreating the most glorious meals of air travel.

by Justin Franz

“Avgeeks,” or aviation enthusiasts, watch the sky for interesting and unique aircraft. Some prefer to fly on uncommon planes or unique routes. Others merely maintain monitor of the planes that they see, in notebooks and spreadsheets. Some take pictures, particularly of uncommon and even one-of-a-kind paint schemes. A stripe or colour block that most individuals in airports by no means discover? To a passionate avgeek it could possibly be a hidden treasure.

A mobile lounge and plane at Dulles, c. 1960.
A cell lounge and aircraft at Dulles, c. 1960. Library of Congress/LC-DIG-krb-00771

by Veronique Greenwood

In case your travels ever carry you to Concourse D of Washington, D.C.’s Dulles Worldwide Airport, you could end up trundling your baggage towards a shabby room on the finish of a hallway, the place the seats are organized in a circle across the partitions, as if within the foyer of a health care provider’s workplace. And then the whole thing will start moving. It is a “cell lounge,” and when it was designed within the Nineteen Sixties, it was going to radically restructure the concept of airports.

by Cara Giaimo

Many of the world’s functioning airports have a three-letter identification code, assigned to them by the Worldwide Air Transit Affiliation. Aviation professionals use the codes as official shorthand, however as artist Parker Higgins realized, you can also use them to play a fun game: inventing three-city itineraries that spell out nine-letter phrases.

A pedestrian’s view of a Kai Tak landing.
A pedestrian’s view of a Kai Tak touchdown. PUBLIC DOMAIN

by Anika Burgess

It’s been greater than 20 years since Hong Kong’s Kai Tak Worldwide Airport closed, however its distinctive, infamous touchdown strategy continues to be very a lot alive within the reminiscence of those that skilled it, particularly runway 13/31, a descent that earned the nickname “Kai Tak Heart Attack.”

by Claire Voon

A verdant discipline runs alongside the northern fringe of Chicago’s O’Hare Worldwide Airport, overlooking one among its seven runways. That is the office of a number of the facility’s most uncommon staff, who spend their shifts consuming as a lot as they need. Additionally they don’t have to fret about commuting, as a result of they sleep there. These seasonal workers are farm animals—goats, sheep, and one donkey—who assist preserve the panorama of one among America’s busiest airports by chomping on overgrown vegetation.





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