In aviation, the terms long-haul and ultra long-haul flights are closely related terms, except that the latter involves flights over longer distances than the former. Besides, different sets of aircrafts are used in each case. These two kinds of flights may be attributed to the non-stop flights over long distances by wide-body aircrafts such as the Boeing 777, Boeing 767, Air Bus A 330 and Air Bus 380, just to mention as examples. The environment in which theses long-haul flights take place may be divided into three categories. These categories are physical, psychological and social environments respectively. Each of the three types of environment is made up of different components. It is worth noting that these three types of environment interrelate and, therefore, affect one another. The physical environment is mainly made up of natural components, which are in most cases beyond the human control. On the other hand, the psychological and social environments consist of human related factors. These factors affect individuals and the cabin crew either directly or indirectly. These factors are discussed below in details in relation to long -haul and ultra- long- haul aircraft operations and its effects on the cabin crew. On the same note, their vulnerability and benefits are also highlighted.
The physical environment
The physical environment of the long-haul flight and the ultra long-haul flight mainly consist of natural components such as altitude, cabin air pressure, level of humidity, hydration and cosmic radiation exposure among other components. These factors work in harmony. They work in a manner that a change in one factor, directly or indirectly affects the other component and vice versa. The changes of these factors during the long-haul flight may have health implications on the cabin crew.
As the long-haul flights and the ultra- long-haul flights involve aircrafts flying at high altitudes above the sea level, they incur a change in atmospheric pressure. Scientifically, it is known that an increase in depth leads to a considerable decrease in atmospheric pressure. It is undisputable; therefore, that when this kind of aircrafts is flying at the high altitudes, the pressure inside their cabin is abnormally high as compared to the atmospheric pressure outside the aircraft. The high pressure inside the aircraft makes the gases inside the bodies of the cabin crew to respond by expanding, hence, they experience difficulties in breathing. Besides, at high altitudes, there is a decrease of oxygen levels, hence, the cabin crew may experience oxygen debt. At high altitudes, there is a drop of humidity therefore the cabin crew may lose water very fast, and thus easily get dehydrated. The dry conditions in the cabin result in the headache. Individuals may get swollen legs due to dehydration. This environment may have the greatest impact on those with anemia, because they tend to be more vulnerable. The cabin crew may carry with them the artificial oxygen to use in case of oxygen shortage.
Another conspicuous physical component is the cosmic radiation exposure. This cosmic radiation mainly consists of the ozone gases that enter the cabin accompanying the oxygen. These radiation is extremely harmful. Not only does it cause skin cancer, but it may result in lung, eye and nasal irritation. This is a very severe health hazard. But of late, cabins have compressors installed that aid in the expulsion of these harmful gases and, hence, prevent their entry into the aircraft.
Regular long-haul flights make an individual adapted to the high altitudes by his or her body responding by producing high amount of hemoglobin hence increasing the amount of oxygen. At the same time, his or her body is able to get adapted to low- pressure zones.
The long-haul flights may be associated with many psychological issues due to long travelling time. These psychological problems may include stress, flight phobia, air rage, jet lag and culture shock among others.
Long distance travelling by air generates intense stress, and this can be extremely tiring. This stress is mainly caused by a bad slept-night and long journeys made to the airport. During the travel, individuals are forced to live in a strange environment. These interactions may lead to the high degree of stress that might result in psychological problems and therefore the passengers are advised to seek medical advice.
Flight phobia is a term used to refer to the fear of flying. Individuals who have a fear of flying often, suffer from increased anxiety. Flight phobia can be caused by internal factors such as panic attack, loss of control of body impulses and, becoming hysterical among others. Again, the fear of flying may be generated by external factors such as unfavorable climatic conditions, the fault in the plane and turbulence.
Air rage is a general term that is used to describe passengers in the aircraft with very disruptive behaviors. These behaviors may cause psychological stresses among the passengers and the crew. This happens when an individual becomes angry or violent during the flight.
Jet lag is another psychological problem that arises as a result of long-haul flights. This is mainly the combination of the physical and psychological discomfort that results from long distance flights. This aspect is characterized by fatigue, and disorientation and these symptoms can occur some days after the journey has ended. An individual may lack concentration, and sometimes it becomes difficult for him or her to perform skilled tasks.
Passengers with psychological disorders like fear of flight become fearless after a certain number of long-haul flights because they get adapted to the environment. Again, the trips may help them identify their weakness as far as the long-haul flight is concerned so that they seek the necessary medical attention.
Because long-haul flights and ultra- long-haul flights involve the individuals travelling over long distances from one point of the earth to another, this means that in case of doing so, one completely changes his or her social environment. People move from different societal setups to other social backgrounds. This is quite challenging because it might affect an individual either positively or negatively.
In the new environment, an individual is forced to interact with the different people around him or her. So, one may be forced to learn a foreign languages in order to enhance communication. It is advisable that an individual learns other people's cultures for him or her to integrate quickly with the new people and get assimilated into their particular cultural set-ps. Sometimes, somebody may change his or her mode of dressing and eating habits, for instance, in order to survive in the new environment. These interactions may change individual's social behaviors.
The long -haul flights involve travelling for a very long time. During the time of travel and also staying in far destinations far from home, an individual may miss his or her parents, children, wife, other family members and friends as well. These separations may cause discomfort among the affected members.
Despite all the social problems highlighted above, social interactions may also help an individual live in different types of cultural backgrounds without any problems. Studying different cultures allows an individual to appreciate other people's culture. The learning of different languages widens somebody's communication fields. These individuals tend to be flexible and accommodative at the same time.
Currently, the majority of the flight companies prefer long -haul flights simply because it is economical. Long -haul flights are considered to be the fastest way of travelling over long distances across the globe. Research has been conducted extensively to make sure that the physical, social and psychological problems are dealt with accordingly. The aviation industry is expanding every day. The aviation experts are far much more in number than in the past. The long-haul flight is a booming business in the aviation industry.
In order to bring the entire three environments into control and minimize the highlighted problems, a lot needs to be done. Strict rules and laws need to be enacted to be followed by all the stakeholders in the aviation industry. The aviation industry needs to impart the required knowledge and skills to trainers so that to enhance professionalism. The travelers need to be educated on how to deal with the social and psychological problems. By doing so, the three types of the environment discussed above will be of high benefit than it is now.