When you check your bags at the airport, you may wonder where they go, if they are safe, and what type of environment they are in on the plane. Your luggage is stored in the cargo hold of the plane, but how cold do airplane cargo holds get?
Airplane cargo holds have a controlled temperature so they will not get too hot or too cold, similar to the plane’s main cabin. And, the temperature in the cargo hold is not significantly affected by the outside temperature.
Here is the temperature of a cargo hold according to Air Canada:
Conditioned air is directed from the cabin, so the air tends to be a little cooler by the time it reaches the cargo areas, which are also less insulated than the cabin. Cargo temperatures vary in our fleet. The Boeing 767 maintains its baggage hold above 7˚C, but the bulk area (where animals are carried) can be heated above 18˚C.
These temperatures are approximately 45 degrees or higher in the baggage hold and 65 degrees in the bulk area in Fahrenheit.
While the temperature of the cargo areas will vary by the type of plane based on size and other engineering factors, all planes will have a controlled temperature similar to the Boeing 767.
This article answers common questions about cargo holds on airplanes like where they are, how the climate is within the holds, and whether or not people can survive in a cargo hold.
Where is the Cargo Hold on a Plane?
Some airplanes have one cargo area, and some have two. The locations will vary by plane, but in general, they are somewhere below the main cabin.
If there is only one cargo hold on the plane, it is directly under the aircraft’s main cabin. Depending on the size of the plane, it can span a majority of the plane’s length, or it can be limited to the back half of the aircraft.
There are typically two cargo areas on larger planes, usually referred to as the baggage hold and the bulk area.
The baggage area, as the name suggests, is where all checked luggage is placed. It is under the main cabin, usually towards the plane’s center.
The second area, the bulk area, is more climate controlled, as it is closer to the main cabin than the other cargo area. The bulk area is usually directly behind and slightly under the main cabin near the aircraft’s rear.
Are airplane cargo holds temperature controlled?
Yes, airplane cargo holds are temperature-controlled. They received the same airflow as the main cabin.
However, they also have colder air than the main cabin because the air flows into the cargo hold after it circulates through the main cabin.
Can you survive in the cargo hold of a plane?
Yes, it is possible to survive in a plane’s cargo hold. Since cargo holds are climate controlled, it is highly unlikely that you will overheat or freeze.
The highest risk you face in the cargo hold is the objects within it. Any objects that are not secure in the cargo hold can move around, and you can be injured or worse from those.
You also have no seat or seat belt in the cargo hold to secure yourself, so you may move around during the flight.
So, while you can survive in the cargo hold of a plane, it is not likely due to the multiple risks you would face, especially on long flights.
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Is a plane’s cargo hold pressurized?
Cargo holds are pressurized on almost all airplanes, especially passenger planes. The airflow and pressure are the same as it is in the main cabin where the passengers are.
Since the cargo hold is pressurized, live animals are safe to be in there, and humans would be fine to breathe in them.
The pressurization is also beneficial for the items in your checked bags, like bottles of alcohol or other liquids. The pressure will not change during the flight in a way that will affect these items.
Since there is no guarantee that your bag will be fine in a pressurized cargo hold, you should protect your luggage and fly safely if anything happens to your bags.
Is it Possible for Checked Luggage to Freeze?
The baggage area of the plane where your checked luggage is held is temperature-controlled. The area is colder than the main cabin, but it is kept above freezing for the flight duration.
You do not have to worry about anything in your luggage freezing, including medication, bathroom items, and liquids.
If you need to pack anything frozen in your luggage, make sure it is well insulated with an ice pack. Otherwise, the items will not stay frozen.
If you have any fragile glass items in your suitcase, they will not break from freezing temperatures, but you still want to keep them safe from other damage. Learn more about bringing glass items on a plane and how to pack glass for traveling.
Are Pets Safe in the Cargo Hold?
Yes, pets are safe in the cargo hold. Airlines take extreme care to ensure that pets are placed in climate-controlled cargo holds, and pets are not allowed to fly on planes that do not have them.
Here is what American Airlines has to say about where pets stay in the plane:
Dogs and cats traveling with us will experience a similarly pressurized and climate-controlled aircraft compartment that our customers are used to in cabin.
Keeping your pet in the cargo hold is just like having them on the plane with you as far as temperatures go.
Pets are also not allowed on planes when extreme temperatures are outside, usually below 45 degrees Fahrenheit or above 85 degrees.