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Why Do I Have to Put My Phone in Airplane Mode?

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When you fly on an airplane these days, you more than likely have access to Wi-Fi. That means you can peruse Facebook, catch up on the latest trending topics on Twitter, feel bad about yourself after two minutes on Pinterest, and even stream music and movies (on certain airlines).

With such impressive in-flight technology improvements, why are cell phones still limited to airplane mode only?

The assumption has long been that mobile frequencies could interfere with the plane’s systems, causing them to malfunction to the point of crashing the plane. While that may be a stretch, phone signals can—and do—interfere with the radio frequency. It doesn’t happen often, and when it does, it’s brief; Condé Nast Traveler describes it as “the sound of a CD skipping.” Still, when pilots and air traffic control are trying to communicate vital information, even a split second of confusion is too risky.

However, there may be a loophole, if airlines decide to allow it. That amazing Wi-Fi we were just talking about? It can be used to make calls, too. Most airlines have banned the practice, not because of signal or interference issues, but because of common human courtesy issues: No one wants to sit next to someone who spends a three-hour flight loudly chatting to someone on Skype. So while it may be technically possible, you probably won't be making phone calls from your window seat any time soon.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.


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Food
United Airlines Has Gotten Rid of Tomato Juice, and Customers Are Freaking Out
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Lovers of tomato juice are a small camp, but a vocal one. And they're furious that United Airlines has replaced their beloved Mott's tomato juice with Mr. and Mrs. T Bloody Mary Mix on all flights under four hours, which includes most of its domestic runs. United said these changes are part of efforts to “streamline” its food service, the Chicago Business Journal reports.

The stealth substitution has fueled a rebellion among loyal tomato juice fans, as The Week points out.

There is some truth to the claim that tomato juice tastes better on flights. One study revealed that the noise level on an airplane affects our perception of taste, making savory or umami flavors more delicious. Another industry-funded study said the air pressure and humidity levels make bolder drinks seem more appealing.

Premium and economy passengers flying United can also say goodbye to Sprite Zero, Jim Beam, Courvoisier, and Amaretto, which were cut from the menu. And although airlines are not exactly known for their cuisine to begin with, passengers will likely start to see a difference in the types of meals being offered. The Chicago Business Journal writes:

"The reduction in food being offered in many instances in first-class and business-class cabins is not insignificant. Hot breakfasts are being replaced on some routes with only fruit plates and muffins, and more substantial lunches are being switched out for wraps and chocolate slabs."

The airline has said it is "monitoring customer feedback."

[h/t The Week]

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Live Smarter
This Travel Site Factors in Baggage Fees to Show You the True Cost of Your Flight
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If you're looking to find the best deal on airfare, there are more tools out there to help you than ever before. Travel sites allow users to compare ticket prices based on airlines and the dates of their trip, but the numbers they show don't always paint the full picture. Additional fees for baggage can make a flight that seemed like a steal at booking suddenly a lot less convenient. Fortunately for frugal flyers, KAYAK has found a way to work this factor into their equations, Travel + Leisure reports.

To use the fare search engine's new baggage fee feature, start by entering the information for your flight like you normally would. Flying from New York to Chicago and back the first week of May? KAYAK recommends taking Spirit Airlines if you're looking to pay as little as possible.

But let's say you plan on checking two bags on your flight—different airlines charge different baggage fees, so Spirit may no longer be the cheapest option. If that's the case, KAYAK includes a Fee Assistant bar right above the search results. After entering the number of carry-on and checked bags you'll be traveling with, the results will automatically update to show the true cost of your fare. Ticket prices for New York to Chicago rise across the board with the addition of two checked bags, and Delta now becomes the best deal if you're looking to book through one airline.

The new baggage fee assistant is one way for travelers to make savvier purchases when booking online. But even with the added fees included, you'll need to do some extra research to determine the true value you get from each ticket price that pops up. Wi-Fi, legroom, and in-flight meal quality are all factors that could make a slightly more expensive airline worth it once you board.

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

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