Maximum speeds, the longest flights, flight attendants’ weight and pilots’ meals – here are 20 little-known facts and snippets about air travel and its history.

Plane taking off from airport

Did you know?

  1. Many airlines have a rule that each pilot flying the aircraft eats a different meal, in order to minimise the risk of all pilots on board being ill.
  2. One third of the world’s airports are in the USA.
  3. The first flight attendants had to weigh less than 115 pounds, be unmarried and be trained nurses.
  4. An online check-in facility was first introduced by Alaskan Airlines in 1999.
  5. QANTAS, the name for Australia’s national airline, was originally an acronym for Queensland and Northern Territories Air Service.
  6. In 1987, American Airlines saved an estimated $40,000 by giving one less olive in each salad served in first class.
  7. The world’s busiest commercial airport is Hartsfield-Jackson Airport (ATL) in Atlanta, with 970,000 airplane movements a year. It’s followed by Chicago (ORD), London (LHR), Tokyo (HND), Los Angeles (LAX).
  8. A Boeing 747 is made up of six million parts.
  9. In 1971, D. B. Cooper hijacked Northwest Orient Airlines Boeing 727 – flight 305. He successfully negotiated a $200,000 ransom for the release of the passengers. He then parachuted from the rear of the plane and was never found.
  10. Since 2004, the longest scheduled long-haul flight was the Singapore Airlines flight 21 from Newark to Singapore, which takes 18.5 hours via an Airbus A340-500.
  11. Earlier this year, Singapore Airlines cancelled this flight, meaning there is now no direct flight from the USA to Singapore.
  12. The longest flight is now a Delta flight between Johannesburg and Atlanta, which at 17 hours has the longest duration, while the longest route will be a Qantas flight between Sydney and Dallas — around 8,500 miles.
  13. The maximum speed of a Boeing 747 is 955 km/h.
  14. At any given hour, 61,000 people are airborne over the US.
  15. British Airways passengers consume six tons of caviar per year.
  16. Singapore Airlines is the second largest buyer of Dom Perignon champagne in the world.
  17. In the early years of commercial flight, before pressurised cabins were invented, airline passengers sometimes had to wear oxygen masks during routine flights.
  18. In 2011, Heathrow Airport handled 69, 433, 230 passengers.
  19. Famous people killed in aircraft accidents include SA cricketer Hansie Cronje, golfers Payne Stewart and Davis Love Sr, musicians Stevie Ray Vaughan, John Denver, Jim Croce and Aaliyah, as well as John f. Kennedy Jr.
  20. In 1936, the airship Hindenburg provided entertainment in the form of a piano lounge, dining room, smoking room, and bar during the 2½ day flight between Europe and America.

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