A Flight Attendant Talks About Fastening Your Seatbelt

By | July 12, 2009
Seat belt on an airplane, buckled-up
Image via Wikipedia

Now, we recently got some interesting comments on our post on Fastening Seatbelts.

Hi! Flight Attendant here: )

You’re right, FAs are informers not enforcers, but as you said it is a federal offense not adhere to FAs instructions. Although, I have never seen a FA call the authorities over a passenger who “had” to use the lav…the rule is for your safety…and I understand emergencies but understand you’ve been informed and being up is at your own risk.

Here is another.

It is against the law to not adhere to posted sign, illuminated signs, and placards.

It is against the law to disregard cabin crew announcements. Likewise, it’s against the law to ignore a specific personal request of a crew member.

It is against the law to interfere with the duties of the crew. Non-compliance of the seatbelt rules is considered interference.

We are not expected or ordered by the FAA to physically force a person back into their seat.

So a passenger who gets up when the seatbelt sign is on is breaking at least 3 Federal laws.

We can issue a “Passenger Misconduct” notice which states you must cease and desist from the behavior you are exhibiting that is in violation of the law. If the passenger does not stop the behavior (i.e. unfastens his/her seat belt), then we will have government authorities meet the aircraft. The FAR 121 laws that were broken in flight will be presented to the authorities and a large fine and/or imprisonment follow.

Obviously, we don’t do that even though we could. We generally reserve taking punitive action when the behavior is more threatening.

Flight Attendants are placed in a very awkward situation: we are charged with the duty to enforce the law, but so many of our peers have simply given up the battle, that enforcement is spotty. So when you go to enforce the law, passengers think you’ve lost your mind (or that you are a jerk) because every flight they’ve ever been on, they were never asked by crew to take their seats.

I often hear this when I tell a passenger they need to take their seat because the sign is on…..”What do you mean? I just have to go to the bathroom!”. They don’t understand this would be akin to speeding home in their car, getting pulled over by a cop and ticketed and their saying,”Officer, I’m only speeding because I need to go to the bathroom!”. It’s just not an excuse to break the law.

Every year dozens of people are injured – some very seriously (i.e. paralysis, or severe head injury). In most of these cases the seatbelt sign was on.

Ultimately, I think most people simply don’t respect authority, believe they are better judges of situations than the experts, or they are so cynical they think they are being unnecessarily manipulated.

I hope this helps.

Flight Attendant
Major Airline in the U.S.A
Tucson, AZ

We feel better knowing we understand the situation. We suspected flight attendants were reluctant to confront passengers on this issue, and feel some conflict about it. Conversely, if there are multiple people up in the aisles, a reminder announcement might not hurt. It may embarrass the people by singling them out, but better that than compound fracture.

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