When you've got a tray full of snacks, or you're fast asleep, it can feel like a huge imposition to hear flight attendants announce on the PA system that it's time to put those tray tables and seats up for landing. After all, is it really that big of a deal?
Well first of all, yes — because it's federal law. But beyond that, these are safety measures grounded in real-world scenarios... which are no fun to think about. Travel + Leisure reports that the Federal Aviation Administration set the rule about upright seats on takeoff and landing because such a practice makes it easier to evacuate the plane in the case of an emergency, and could therefore help minimize injuries in the process. It's especially relevant because most airplane accidents happen during the process of takeoff or landing. T+L cites a Boeing study that found that well over half — 58 percent — of fatal accidents happen during the ascent or descent. So when your flight attendants get on your case about your reclined seat or empty mini bottles splayed out on that open tray table, consider that your cooperation could help save lives by keeping exit paths free and clear. (So be nice to them.)
Beyond that, when your seat is upright, you'll be at reduced risk of head injury should a landing become bumpy — because your head would have less far to travel before impact.
And if — heaven forbid — a crash becomes imminent, flight crew will ask passengers to brace for impact (words no one ever wants to hear) and that's something passengers can only do effectively when seats are upright.
Now you know.
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