Revealed: Busting every plane seat myth

Plane cabins can be very mysterious places.

Why are there still ashtrays, even on new planes?

Is there a reason why the seats are usually blue?

Why does everyone insist on taking off their shoes and making the entire cabin smell like foot soup?

We digress.

Some of these questions can be answered, some will remain on the scrap heap of unexplained human behaviour.

The kind folk over at The Telegraph have managed to provide some answers to the questions we so often ponder while midair.

First off – Why are the seats almost always blue?

We figured perhaps it was just some kind of strange coincidence that all airline interior designers fancied the colour, but apparently, there’s some psychological reasoning at work.

According to Colour Affects, blue is associated with qualities of “trust, efficiency, serenity, coolness, reflection and calm,”

“It’s all about making the travelling experience less stressful and blue is said to evoke a feeling of calm,” Nigel Goode, lead aviation designer and co-founder at Priestman Goode told the Telegraph.

“While some of the more budget airlines might use brasher, bolder shades, most others go with muted tones.”

“The overarching aim is to create a home-like relaxing feel, so airlines tend to use muted colours that feel domestic, natural and earthy for that reason.”

Aircraft interior

What’s with the eerie lighting?

The spooky space-age lighting, which we like because it makes us feel like we’re in a spaceship, is also supposed to create a stress-free environment.

“There is definitely a science behind getting the right lighting on board, looking at the mix of colours used on board and how the light will reflect off the thread of the fabric,” Goode said.

“Our research in airports and railway stations has shown that the psychological power of colour and control of lighting can influence the mood of people,”

Airplane interior lighting and signs

And that FABRIC!

Always itchy, sometimes scratchy but never slick – and there’s a reason for that too.

Most long-haul carriers don’t install leather seat coverings to prevent unpleasant sweaty situations.

Fabrics are also chosen for their hard-wearing qualities, and darker colours are favourable because it’s easier to cover up stains.

Same reason we never wear white shirts.

Excuse me, why won’t my seat recline?

Nothing is worse than the shock horror of having a seat that doesn’t recline on a long haul-flight.

Some airlines, like Ryanair, don’t have recline mechanisms because they add weight.

Airlines are always looking for ways to keep the weight of a plane down, to save on fuel costs.

Some even go as far as to remove the little magazine net on the back of chairs.

And WHY are there still ashtrays?


Smoking has been banned on planes for a long time now, so why are there still ashtrays in the toilets?

The ashtray in the toilet is still a legal requirement according to the US Federal Aviation Administration’s list of “minimum equipment” for an airline.

But Australia’s Civil Aviation Authority removed the requirement in 1995.

“They [the ashtrays] are there in case somebody does break the law, so that at least they will have somewhere to put the cigarette out,” Goode says.

“I don’t think smoking on planes will ever come back, but every so often we have received design requests that include potentially offering a smoking area or cigar bar on board,”

If you want to see the Telegraph’s full list of aircraft mysteries, go here.