Atstock Productions/ShutterstockOn a long flight, there’s plenty of time to kick back and get cozy. After your plane has firmly cemented itself at cruising altitude, you can kick back your seat a bit and let your personal electronic devices flail all over without worrying about getting a scolding by a flight attendant. But if your flight is on the shorter side (this is how long the shortest flight in America is, by the way), you may never get the chance to kick your seat out of the upright and locked position.
But why exactly is there a need to slide it into its default position in the first place? What’s wrong with every passenger coasting into a new city in airline rows reminiscent of a La-Z-Boy recliner factory? The measure, much like your floating device seat cushions, is designed just in case something goes wrong.
According to Boeing, 61 percent of fatal airline accidents from 2007 through 2016 happened during takeoff, the initial climb, the final approach, and landing. When the seat is reclined, a passenger can be more susceptible to whiplash injuries and it is more difficult to assume the brace position, which is proven to be the most protective posture in the instance of a crash.
And, as one can glean from the “locked” part of the “upright and locked” position, the seat is just more secure and sturdy. But the seat position isn’t only for your benefit—it’s also catered to help the airline crew. Candace Kolander, the Air Safety, Health, and Security Coordinator for the Association of Flight Attendants, spoke to Condé Nast Traveler about the role the seat position plays in the event of a crash.
“When we do testing for impact scenarios, the seat is tested in the upright position…The flight attendant’s primary role is that of aviation first responder. We aren’t asking for compliance just because we’re going around to be mean,” Kolander said.
Kolander also explained that when the seat is in the upright and locked position, it will generally allow for a better sightline through the windows of the plane. And if a seat is reclining across a flight attendant’s sightline, it’s probably also an impediment to anyone sitting close to the window.
Now that you know why it’s necessary to make sure your seat is in the right position during takeoff and landing, make sure you know these other little flight etiquette rules for a smooth trip.