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8 Hidden Features on Airplanes You Had No Idea Existed

Keep an eye out for these on your next flight.

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close up of engine and windows on airplaneDennis Lane/Getty Images

Hidden features

When you travel on a plane, 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 features that you never knew were on airplanes. Flying looks a little different these days due to COVID-19, but these hidden features remain the same. Read on to discover where these hidden features are on an airplane and the purpose that they serve. These are the things you won’t be able to do on airplanes anymore.

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AirplaneGabriel Robek/Shutterstock

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 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, according to Travel + Leisure. 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. Whether you’re in the aisle or window seat, don’t make the mistake of doing these things you should never do on an airplane.

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AirplaneHave a nice day Photo/Shutterstock

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 gives better grip when walking down a moving airplane. Next time you need to get up, reach to the ceiling for balance. This is why it’s always so cold on airplanes.

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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. Find out what flight attendants really notice about you.

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Hooks on the wings

If you peek out the window to an Airbus plane’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 would be very slippery for passengers trying to get to the inflatable slide that would have deployed. To help travelers get off without falling, these easy-to-miss airplane features let cabin crew slip a rope through one hook and fasten it to the next, according to pilot “Captain” Joe. Passengers could hold on to the rope while on the plane to make it away from the plane safely. These are some common myths about airplanes that you need to stop believing.

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Triangle above 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 pilot “Captain” Joe. If a flight attendant needs 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. Learn which are the best seats on a plane for every need.

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airplaneSarana Nakarat/Shutterstock

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 of the plane. The outside window takes on most of that pressure, and the hole in the middle one helps balance the pressure difference. The inner window is just to protect the middle one. This is exactly how airplanes keep the air clean.

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Vacant green sign, vacant symbol on an airplane lavatory door. Raised, brushed metal lavatory sign, recessed plastic vacant sign. Toilet room, wc, closet on airplane boardKonev Timur/Getty Images

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. These are the things your airplane pilot won’t tell you.

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handcuffsBertlmann/Getty Images

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. For more airplane trivia, learn what those weird noises and phrases you hear mid-flight mean.


  • Travel and Leisure: “There’s a Secret Button on Your Airplane Seat That Will Give You More Room (Video)”
  • 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: “REVEALED: Could you be RESTRAINED if you’re badly behaved on a flight?”

Marissa Laliberte
Marissa Laliberte-Simonian is a London-based associate editor with the global promotions team at WebMD’s and was previously a staff writer for Reader's Digest. Her work has also appeared in Business Insider, Parents magazine, CreakyJoints, and the Baltimore Sun. You can find her on Instagram @marissasimonian.

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