Can you guess what’s flying under your seat?

May 13, 2014
Vasilka Atanasova

Passenger airplanes travel the world every day because people travel all the time. And when people travel then it means that variety of cargo travels with them. Can you guess what’s flying under you? You should have real unscrewed imagination because there are crazy things flying with you on an airplane, anytime, anywhere. For the right price an airline will take almost anything. Yet, no matter how expensive it could be people pay to fly their belongings with them on the airplane. Now we are not talking about clothes, shoes, cosmetics and guns. Oh, did I say guns? Yes, people take their guns on airplanes and airlines accept that, but only in a checked-in baggage.

How much cargo flies with you on an airplane?

A boing 777 maximum take off weight is 660,000 lb (299,370 kg.). On average there are about 350 passengers which is roughly 20 000 kg (more or less depending on the exact number of passengers and their weight). The cargo flying on the passenger airplane could come to about 15 000 kg. (more in most cases). The number of trans-Pacific flights has increased 25% since 2006. The amount of cargo volume on trance-Pacific passenger flight entering the US in 2013 was 9.4 million cubic meters which is a lot. In 2013 there were almost 60,000 flights from Northeast and Southeast Asia to the US.

It’s easy to imagine that the cargo is all suitcases but in fact the cargo is often not comprised only from suitcases. Airlines allow much more interesting things to fly on their airplanes.

Let’s find out some interesting and even crazy cargo carried underneath your seat.

A dead body!

Yes, that’s right. Moving a corpse is more common than you think. People fly their beloved once to be buried in their home countries very often. A big percentage of the bodies is also transported for scientific or medical examination and analysis. Airline code for a dead body on board is “Jim Wilson.” Also, cadaver crates are labelled “HEAD” so the loaders know which end is the head.

This leads me to another interesting point. People dying on board. Unfortunately, it happens and some airlines are even prepared for that.  Singapore Airline Airbus A340-500 has a “corpse cupboard” just in case someone dies on the airplane. The average number of on board deaths each year is about 260.

Live animals on board – checked!

Live animals are more common than corpses. People often transport personal pets or guide and assistance dogs. Also, many times there are sporting animals, agricultural animals for breeding, zoological animals or species being transported for science. So, just try to imagine a little tiger or an alligator traveling underneath your seat. It happens often. People and institutions buy or adopt animals from all over the world and ship them all over the world.

Firearms are on the list!

As I mentioned in the beginning, people often take their guns on the airplane, but only in the checked in baggage. Airlines do not allow firearms in carry-on baggage, but that does not mean people don’t try to do it. The TSA found over 1000 guns in carry-on luggage in the US in 2013.

Luxury cars – oh yes people fly them overseas often!

You may have often wondered how much it costs to fly a car. Well the answer is about $10,000 depending on the car of course and the airline, and how fast you want it. I guess when you have spent a million on a beast you just don’t want to wait for a shipping container. Shipping a luxury car requires some fine work, strong straps and crates when the car is in the air. “Regular” milioners and Formula One pilots fly their vehicles quite often. Sure some people and companies have contracts with UPS and FedEx, but it’s still expensive to fly a car. Yet, when you can spent a million on a vehicle you don’t spear a few thousand dollars to ship it right?



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