A seat belt sign seems self-explanatory enough: Stay seated, and latch your seat belt. Once it’s off, you can feel free to get up and stretch your legs or head to the bathroom. But crew members know the ins and outs of what it really means when that symbol is lit up—and it’s a bit more complicated than you realized.
The plane is taking off soon
Just because you’ve been told to stay in your seat doesn’t mean the flight crew has to—yet. Airlines have their own rules about what the chimes you hear mean, but if you hear two dings, then see the seat belt sign flash, the pilot could be warning the crew to sit down because the plane is about to take off, says former Virgin Atlantic flight attendant Laura Hutcheson tells the Washington Post. Here are the other codes behind chimes, announcements, and more in-flight noises.)
You’re about to land
That same signal the captain uses to communicate takeoff time is also used when the plane is about to land, Hutcheson adds. “It is the final sign from the captain for the crew to take their seats,” she says. And here’s why your seat needs to be in the upright position while landing and other reasons behind weird airplane safety rules.
The plane is parked
Ever notice hear a crew member tell you to stay in your seat until the plane reaches the terminal, only to see the seatbelt sign turn off almost immediately? The captain turns the seat belt sign off when the plane is parked, but that doesn’t mean passengers should start getting up, says Hutcheson. “Although the aircraft is at a standstill and passengers believe that it is safe to get up and start getting their bags, the aircraft could still move unexpectedly, which could result in passengers injuring themselves,” she says. Now that you know that airplane secret, check out these other hidden features you never knew you could find on airplanes.