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9 Hidden Airplane Features You Had No Idea Existed

Updated: Mar. 22, 2024

Keep an eye out for these airplane features on your next flight.

close up of engine and windows on airplane
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Hidden airplane features

When you travel on an airplane (or if you’re feeling fancy, an aeroplane), your main focus is most likely getting to your destination and being comfortable enough to sleep. But if you take a look around, you might notice a few airplane features that you never knew were there. There’s a purpose to everything when it comes to air travel, including the roundness of airplane windows and the existence of rear-facing airplane seats. And let’s not get even get started on what happens when you flush an airplane toilet. Read on to discover where these airplane features hide and the purpose they serve.

Empty airplane seats in second class on an international flight during August peak season
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The magic button for extra room

Did you manage to snag an aisle seat? Not only can you get up without crawling over people, but you can also make your seat extra roomy at the push of a button, thanks to one of the coolest secret airplane features. Reach under the armrest closest to the aisle and feel around near the hinge. You should find a button, which will instantly let you swing the armrest up when you push it. Once it’s in line with your seat back, it won’t dig into your side anymore, and you can move your legs around without hitting anything. Since it’s always so cold on airplanes, this will even give you more room to wrap yourself up in a blanket.

Overhead luggage storage on empty airplane
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The hidden handrail

We’re willing to bet you hate it when people aggressively grab your seat on the way to the bathroom. Once it’s your turn to make your way down the aisle, though, you realize you have no choice but to follow suit—or do you? Flight attendants don’t just touch the ceiling for fun when they walk; the bottom of the overhead compartment has a scalloped area that provides a better grip when walking down a moving airplane. Next time you need to get up, reach above for balance, and don’t make these other airplane travel mistakes.

secret sleeping room in a commercial aircraft
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The secret sleeping area

A long-haul flight is hard enough on passengers, but imagine being a pilot or flight attendant trying to make it through a 14-hour workday. It’s an exhausting job, so some planes, like Boeing 777 and 787 planes, have secret passageways that let staff get some decent shut-eye, according to Insider. A locked door near the front of the plane or a door posing as an overhead bin hides the entrance to a set of beds, kept private with thick curtains.

Airplane wing Flying Over Clouds
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The hooks on the wings

If you peek out the window to an Airbus’s wing, you can spot yellow bumps with holes in the middle on an otherwise smooth, white surface. If there’s an emergency water landing, the wings will be very slippery for passengers trying to get to the inflatable slide that will have deployed. To help travelers get off without falling, these easy-to-miss airplane features let the cabin crew slip a rope through one hook and fasten it to the next, according to pilot and YouTuber “Captain” Joe. Passengers could hold on to the rope while on the wing to make it away from the plane safely. Next, find out how high airplanes really fly.

row of seats on an airplane with a black triangle above the window
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The triangle above the window

Scan the wall of your plane; above four windows, you’ll see a black triangle. Each one lines up with the edge of the airplane’s wing, according to “Captain” Joe. If flight attendants need to check the airplane’s slats or flaps—the moving parts on a wing—they’ll know exactly where to go for the best view. If you’re getting motion sick on a plane, you might want to see if you can move to a seat between the triangles. The wings are the plane’s center of gravity, so sitting between them would give you the smoothest ride. For more information about airplane features, learn how in-flight Wi-Fi works.

Airplane window breather hole bleed hole with wing blue sky
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The holes in the windows

Look closely at an airplane window, and you’ll spot something weird: a little hole in the bottom. Take an even closer look, and you’ll realize that, unlike other windows, this one is made of three panes, and the hole is in the middle one. The quirk is there to protect against the pressure drop of flying high into the atmosphere. As a plane ascends, the pressure outside drops massively, but the cabin is designed to stay at a comfortable pressure. That leaves a big difference in pressure inside and outside the plane. The outside window takes on most of that pressure, and the hole in the middle pane helps balance the pressure difference. The inner window is just to protect the middle one.

airplane bathroom with sink in the corner and ashtray on the wall
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The ashtrays in the bathrooms

The ashtrays in the bathroom aren’t really hidden, but if you’ve seen them, you’ve probably wondered why planes (including newer planes) still have them. Even though smoking is banned when you’re on an airplane, it’s still common practice to install them. In the event that a smoker breaks the rules and decides to smoke in the bathroom, they will dispose of their cigarette in the ashtray rather than throwing it in the trash and potentially causing a fire. Snuffing out your cigarette before you board is just one rule to follow. Another: Turn your phone on airplane mode.

close up of handcuffs in a black pocket
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The hidden handcuffs

If passengers are getting unruly, flight attendants have the right to restrain them. They might use typical cop-style cuffs, but most will use plastic restraints similar to zip ties, according to Express.

bathroom sign on an airplane
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The outside-bathroom locks

The bathroom isn’t as private as it may seem. Even though you lock the door from the inside, there is a button located underneath the “lavatory” sign outside the bathroom door. This button will allow flight attendants to unlock the door from the outside in case of an emergency. For more airplane trivia, learn what those weird noises on airplanes are all about.


  • Business Insider: “There’s a secret button on your plane seat that will give you more space—and it’s not the recline button”
  • Insider: “See inside the secret airplane bedrooms where flight attendants sleep on long-haul flights”
  • YouTube: “Mysterious Objects on Airbus A320 explained by ‘Captain’ Joe”
  • Express: “Have YOU spotted it? Why this tiny secret hook on a plane’s wing could save your life”
  • Express: “REVEALED: Could you be RESTRAINED if you’re badly behaved on a flight?”
  • The Sun: “Flight attendants reveal the hidden toilet button—which means it can open from the OUTSIDE”