freezing flight—maintenance issue or normal?

 
Old Aug 21, 09, 12:37 am
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Question freezing flight—maintenance issue or normal?

This is in regards to flight 1136, which flew from MIA to DCA today. About 20 minutes after take-off, my section of the cabin got extremely cold. This was not a comfort issue but a case of extreme cold caused by an air conditioning system that could not have been working properly. This wasn’t just me. I saw other passengers visibly uncomfortable. A man in front of me was rubbing his arms to stay warm and said, “it’s freezing.” A flight attendant quickly came around to pass out blankets which we were all very grateful for. Within minutes, about five rows of passengers were all wearing the red AA blankets to keep warm. While I can’t give an accurate estimate of what the temperature was, I can say without question that it would have been unbearable for someone only dressed in shorts and a tee shirt to have sat in this section for the two hour flight.

Oddly, the temperature remained about the same throughout the flight. Neither the crew nor the pilot made any announcement or gave any explanation. And so I asked the flight attendant in my section what had happened. He said the ultra cold temperature in this area was common. He attributed it to the design of the plane, a 737-800, I believe. He added that the back section of the aircraft was also normally excessively hot, with passengers sometimes sweating. This wasn’t particularly reassuring.

When we landed, I asked the flight attendant from the first class section if she knew anything further about the problem. Her response was only something like, “yeah, it sure was cold, wasn’t it?” Once I got to baggage claim, I called AA reservations and reported the temperature issue to be certain that American corporate was aware of the problem. The reservations agent advised that she was starting a process of e-mails to notify the right people.

Does anyone know if this is normal for this aircraft? Could the problem be resolved through a check on the air conditioning system or could this be a design problem by Boeing? Thanks in advance for your insight.

Last edited by HNL2017; Aug 21, 09 at 6:40 am
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Old Aug 21, 09, 12:49 am
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Based on your description, it's hard to say if anything was out of the ordinary.

I've been on many flights where some pax were covering up with blankets and I was fine in short sleeves. Some parts of the plane can be cooler than others (like near exit rows.) But without knowing what the temperature actually was on the plane, it's difficult to say whether the A/C was working right or not.

Did you turn off the overhead vent?

As for whether it was a "design problem by Boeing"--IMO, that's a stretch.
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Old Aug 21, 09, 2:05 am
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I agree that this does not seem abnormal based on many flights I have been on. It is usually hot on the ground and then not long after take off it gets cold (or extremely cold, depending on where you are sitting).
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Old Aug 21, 09, 3:45 am
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Originally Posted by LMB01 View Post
I agree that this does not seem abnormal based on many flights I have been on. It is usually hot on the ground and then not long after take off it gets cold (or extremely cold, depending on where you are sitting).
but, the OP stated part of the plane was very warm and people were sweating. I have sat in all areas of 738s, and I really don't find the temperatures much different than other planes. Sometimes too warm, sometimes too cold, sometimes OK.
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Old Aug 21, 09, 7:02 am
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Originally Posted by mvoight View Post
but, the OP stated part of the plane was very warm and people were sweating. I have sat in all areas of 738s, and I really don't find the temperatures much different than other planes. Sometimes too warm, sometimes too cold, sometimes OK.
Actually, the OP didn't say that.

Originally Posted by HNL2017 View Post
He <flight attendant> added that the back section of the aircraft was also normally excessively hot, with passengers sometimes sweating.
I agree with videomaker - without knowing whether the temps on this flight were out of the ordinary, it's hard to say if something was wrong or not. Some folks feel the cold, others don't so much. On many flights sitting next to my SO I have been more than comfortable in a t-shirt while he is sitting there with a jumper and a blanket over the top.
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Old Aug 21, 09, 8:01 am
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OP: Were you in an exit row?

IME, the seats in the exit rows can sometimes be quite chilly compared to the rest of the cabin. Even with a fleece and a couple red blankets, I'd still be shivering. (And my carryon under the seat is completely cold to the touch.)
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Old Aug 21, 09, 12:03 pm
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Abnormal in my book. I usually find that the cabins are way too hot -- usually close to 80 degrees or more.
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Old Aug 21, 09, 2:36 pm
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Originally Posted by HNL2017 View Post
Could the problem be resolved through a check on the air conditioning system....
Not very likely. My understanding is that pressurization is maintained by using the aircraft's speed to essentially ram outside air into the cabin, and then by controlling its egress to maintain the desired pressurization. Outside air is normally about minus 60 degrees, and must be heated before introduction into the cabin. It is possible that the heating function was not working properly.

I believe that the air-conditioning only works on the ground.

Air temperatures can be pretty variable, so those who fly frequently dress in layers for best comfort. I find it more often on the cool side than too warm.

Could you see your breath in the cabin? If so, it was too cold and you should contact AA about the problem.

Those who fly in shorts, a tee-shirt, and (presumably) flip-flops deserve whatever happens to them.
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Old Aug 21, 09, 2:42 pm
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Originally Posted by gemac View Post
Those who fly in shorts, a tee-shirt, and (presumably) flip-flops deserve whatever happens to them.
Thank you for saying what I was thinking.

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Old Aug 21, 09, 2:58 pm
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When part of a large group in a confined space, colder is always better than warmer.
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Old Aug 21, 09, 3:49 pm
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Originally Posted by gemac View Post
Not very likely. My understanding is that pressurization is maintained by using the aircraft's speed to essentially ram outside air into the cabin, and then by controlling its egress to maintain the desired pressurization. Outside air is normally about minus 60 degrees, and must be heated before introduction into the cabin. It is possible that the heating function was not working properly.

I believe that the air-conditioning only works on the ground.

Air temperatures can be pretty variable, so those who fly frequently dress in layers for best comfort. I find it more often on the cool side than too warm.

Could you see your breath in the cabin? If so, it was too cold and you should contact AA about the problem.

Those who fly in shorts, a tee-shirt, and (presumably) flip-flops deserve whatever happens to them.
No cigar - not even vaguely correct. Pressurization is attained by using bleed air off a later compressor stage of the turbine(s). You are correct in starting that the outside air temperature at normal cruising altitudes is very cold and needs to be heated, but this is achieved by adiabatic heating of the air in the compressor as it is compressed and in fact the exiting air normally needs to be cooled again before entering the cabin.
Agree totally on the flip-flops BTW....

Wiki has a good overview...http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cabin_pressurization

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Old Aug 21, 09, 6:01 pm
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I had a similar incident flying a 738 (old config) from DFW to RDU. Took a long time to get the flight attendent to get to us because of turbulence. It was *freezing* at the bulkheads in Y. Even the FAs remarked on how cold it was when they came up for drink service.

This was, btw, preferable to the even colder "You need to plan better." that an FA on SFO-DFW replied to my seatmate when she asked for a blanket.
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Old Aug 21, 09, 9:05 pm
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Originally Posted by videomaker View Post
I've been on many flights where some pax were covering up with blankets and I was fine in short sleeves.

I've had the same thing happen. On the other hand, I've also had flights where I've been very cold and others have been in t-shirts without looking cold. I've gotten so I always travel wearing a jacket or blazer, so that I can cover up even in summer if I get cold. (It also gives you a more professional look.)

The worst flights for temperature are those on the dreaded CR7. Those planes are always freezing cold in the forward half of the aircraft, and swealteringly hot in the aft part of the cabin. And there's nothing the crew can do about it--it's a design flaw.


By the way, it's probably a good idea for you to avoid using those on-board blankets. The red blankets are truly disgusting! You would shudder if you found out how seldom they are laundered on domestic/short-haul narrowbody equipment. People sit on them, throw up on them, change babies on them, wipe noses on them....I've personally witnessed all of these events.

I never touch the pillows or blankets on any flight unless they are in a sealed plastic wrapper and I personally open that wrapper. (So, basically, I use the pillows and blankets only on international outbound flights where they are on your seat in a sealed plastic package. On the return from overseas, usually they launder the blankets but not the pillows. Only the blankets usually are in plastic wrap on the return to the States. So, I just use two blankets instead. Or, in extreme cases, I remove the pillowcase and wrap the pillow in cloth napkins from the meal service before my head/face goes anywhere near it.
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Old Aug 21, 09, 11:04 pm
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Originally Posted by gemac View Post

Those who fly in shorts, a tee-shirt, and (presumably) flip-flops deserve whatever happens to them.
Why??

So the flip side is if the flight is warm and passengers are wearing business suits they deserve whatever happens to them too?

Why can't we expect a suitable cabin temperature without extremes either way?

And why presume flip-flops with shorts?
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Old Aug 22, 09, 12:06 am
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Originally Posted by paulTX View Post
Why??

So the flip side is if the flight is warm and passengers are wearing business suits they deserve whatever happens to them too?

Why can't we expect a suitable cabin temperature without extremes either way?

And why presume flip-flops with shorts?
Right, I usually were sandals with white socks.

FWIW, the guys in the business suits are layered, as was suggested.

Last edited by mvoight; Aug 24, 09 at 1:15 am
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