When flying I noticed that all the commercial aircraft I have been on use carpets as a floor covering. But why? If you fly in an older aircraft it looks worn out and it is susceptible to stains etc. Why do they not use one of the hard flooring options like linoleum?

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    $\begingroup$ I'd guess that carpet patterns on planes, like upholstery on other forms of transport (e.g. train seats) are likely designed to make staining less obvious. Here's a good BBC article about train seats, which have some similar constraints: bbc.com/autos/story/20160804-why-are-trains-seats-so-hideous $\endgroup$
    – jonrsharpe
    Commented Apr 17, 2017 at 16:02
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    $\begingroup$ Comfort and vibe; carpeting is the last remaining thing that separates a plane from a school bus with wings. A cheap passenger-train style hard floor on a plane would suck the last remaining bits of hope out of the whole experience of flying somewhere, fully immersing passengers in soulless despair. shudder $\endgroup$
    – Jason C
    Commented Apr 17, 2017 at 20:19
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    $\begingroup$ I once took a domestic Chinese flight where the floor was grooved rubber matting. Definitely felt cheap and "school bus with wings"! $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 17, 2017 at 23:59
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    $\begingroup$ @jonrsharpe holy cow at the "skin-crawling video" linked from article - and we sit on those things.... $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 18, 2017 at 4:54
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    $\begingroup$ Hey, it's just because -be honest, who doesn't like a flying carpet? $\endgroup$
    – motoDrizzt
    Commented Apr 20, 2017 at 12:47

4 Answers 4

  • helps prevent slips and falls
  • contains spills (your spilt soda won't ruin your neighbors bag)
  • more easily removed and replaced
  • helps reduce cabin noise
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    $\begingroup$ I'd guess it's less poisonous in a cabin fire, too. $\endgroup$
    – ceejayoz
    Commented Apr 17, 2017 at 13:50
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    $\begingroup$ @ceejayoz That would depend on a lot of things like the material of the carpet, the glue used and what type of hard flooring you are comparing it to. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 17, 2017 at 14:20
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    $\begingroup$ The second bullet point is also even more important than usual on an airplane, as they tend to spend a rather significant amount of time with the floor not perpendicular to the gravity vector (meaning spilled things would spread faster than normal and not necessarily just to your neighbor.) $\endgroup$
    – reirab
    Commented Apr 17, 2017 at 22:03
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    $\begingroup$ @reirab in that case it also has a non-slip effect -- even a plastic bag with any weight in it doesn't slide around in normal operations on carpet, but on a shiny surface everyone would end up with bags sliding into their feet on acceleration. $\endgroup$
    – Chris H
    Commented Apr 18, 2017 at 9:44
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    $\begingroup$ I doubt the "more easily removed". That doesn't depend on the walking surface, only on the backing surface and that can be made identical. $\endgroup$
    – jwenting
    Commented Apr 19, 2017 at 6:05

The answer: High heels!

The local pressure of high heels would punch a hole in the aluminium or composite flooring, and a carpet is the lightest way to distribute the loads such that the local pressure from high heels can be tolerated. This is the real reason.

From Aircraft Structures Summary

On the floor of the fuselage also very high localized loads can occur, especially from small-heeled shoes. Therefore floors need a strong upper surface to withstand high local stresses.

Other reasons are improved noise absorption and damping of vibrations. Nobody likes it when the floor panels start to resonate when excited by some engine or pump frequency.

With composite panels now in widespread use for cabin interiors, manufacturing flaws need to be covered, and carpets serve this purpose well. From Compositesworld.com:

Because sandwich panel facesheets are very thin, core print-through is common. Further, pinholes can form as phenolic resins outgas during reaction and cure. Therefore, panels visible to passengers typically are surfaced with some type of decorative material to cover surface flaws. Floor panels can be painted or covered with flame-retardant carpet.

  • $\begingroup$ skydiving in a Cessna 206 taught me that it's totally fine when bits of the floor and interior resonate, but I can see why it wouldn't be great on commercial. I'd never thought about heels on a plane, who does that!! $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 20, 2017 at 8:54
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    $\begingroup$ Last week I flew on the Airbus A350 demo aircraft which has section of the flooring made out of fake wood. They said it was new for the A350, looked really cool, Qatar Airways has it in their A350 at the entry: nycaviation.com/2016/01/… So there must be other reasons for using high heals than local pressure alone. $\endgroup$ Commented May 30, 2018 at 9:27
  • $\begingroup$ @Brilsmurfffje: An airline which places style over weight savings puts laminate flooring in their aircraft and you suspect other reasons for using carpet. I guess I have a bridge which I can sell you for a reasonable price … $\endgroup$ Commented May 31, 2018 at 8:28
  • $\begingroup$ I’ve spent hours reading your answers (you should write a book) and this is the most surprising! $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 30, 2019 at 14:56

Could you also imagine the difficulty of holding the trolley during turbulence or anything else? It would roll down and run someone over!

I also saw a Quora post where someone had pointed out it's also flame retardant, which is a good point.

Comfort is important too, not to mention another place to put advertising on some planes

  • $\begingroup$ so you do away with trolleys. Who needs meal and drinks service in a run down city bus style airliner anyway :) $\endgroup$
    – jwenting
    Commented Apr 19, 2017 at 6:05
  • $\begingroup$ Flammability is a rule law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/14/appendix-F_to_part_25 $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 19, 2017 at 18:31
  • $\begingroup$ "The average burn length may not exceed 8 inches, and the average flame time after removal of the flame source may not exceed 15 seconds. Drippings from the test specimen may not continue to flame for more than an average of 5 seconds after falling." that's actually quite interesting $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 20, 2017 at 8:50
  • $\begingroup$ It's significantly easier to print advertising on a hard floor than a carpet, so that's not a contributing factor. $\endgroup$
    – Moyli
    Commented Apr 20, 2017 at 14:42
  • $\begingroup$ I wouldn't say significantly, given that there are plenty of solutions that all work the same way for both hard and soft floors. I'm not saying replace the entire carpet each time obviously.. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 20, 2017 at 14:43

Carpet is more pleasant

Aside from the practial reasons Greg already mentioned, most if not all people, will consider a carpet as a more pleasant material than ugly linolum. The fact that you have to replace a carpet after some years, counts also for most the interior in a plane (seats, board-entertainment, cover panels and so on). Furthermore a lot of people take their shoes of during long flights and a carpet feels in this situation a lot more comfortable.
In the good old days TWA rolled out a red carpet for their passengers at the check-in desk :)

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    $\begingroup$ The mental image of an endless array of people each enjoying the feel of the same patch of carpet on their shoeless feet is not a pleasant one, in my opinion. :) $\endgroup$
    – Kirk Woll
    Commented Apr 19, 2017 at 13:26
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    $\begingroup$ I take regulary showers! $\endgroup$
    – Peter
    Commented Apr 19, 2017 at 16:01

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