This is in relation with a question I asked yesterday . This is part two of the question. Do people feel less discomfort. Whenever I'm traveling on planes, at times I feel strain in back of the head, sometimes my ears get closed, sometimes the throat,nose either get fully dried or they start to blow. Would a lower cabin pressure help in any of those things ?

  • $\begingroup$ If you travelled on an equally-crowded bus or train at sea level, wouldn't you experience most of those things? $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Dec 25, 2016 at 19:33
  • $\begingroup$ If by airsick you refer to the typical meaning which is synonymous with motion-sick, then no. Low level flight at hot, humid, turbulent altitudes in an unpressurized aircraft will contribute to airsickness much more readily than flight at cool, dry, less-turbulent altitudes. If you mean discomfort due to onset hypoxia or other pressure-related issues, then yes, any lower cabin pressure will be better than any higher cabin pressure. However, some of those issues are due to rate of change or total change in pressure in descent, not the cruise pressure. $\endgroup$
    – J Walters
    Dec 25, 2016 at 20:26
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Let's be careful when discussing cabin pressure in relation to altitude. Using the words 'higher' and 'lower' can be very confusing here - even without the first signs of hypoxia... $\endgroup$ Dec 26, 2016 at 10:11
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ The cabin air is dry, on purpose. This is likely for a large part at the origin of your discomfort. $\endgroup$
    – mins
    Dec 26, 2016 at 11:57

1 Answer 1


Boeing supported a study that directly addresses your question:

On the basis of our findings, we conclude that maintaining a cabin altitude of 6000 ft or lower on long-duration commercial flights will reduce the occurrence of discomfort among passengers.

Note, though, that the lower cabin altitude of the 787 is one of its selling points, and the study was conducted not too long before that type's introduction. However, its methods seem reasonable (at least to someone like me with no background in health sciences) and it was published in an important peer-reviewed medical journal.

The Aerospace Medical Association took a broad look at existing literature on the subject shortly after Boeing's study. That review

did not find sufficient scientific data to recommend a change in the cabin altitude of transport category aircraft;

however, the authors did not dismiss the notion that a lower altitude may increase comfort, and they recommended further study. Just this month, some results of that further study were released. The results showed

no adverse effects from an environment pressurized to the equivalent of 8000 ft compared to 6000 ft,

although they did not account rigorously for the subjective "discomfort" that I think you mean by "airsick."

My reading of the current research (based on the above) is that there is no evidence to suggest that a 6000-foot cabin altitude is medically better than a higher altitude (up to 8000 feet), but it might make some folks subjectively feel better.


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