Please fasten your seatbelt is a standard and very appropriate request on every flight you take. I say request but it should really be an order. Or even better there should be a seat belt law.
The seat belt has developed as a form of safety for both the user and the people around them on every flight. It is basic in concept but fundamental in preventing or restricting harm in unfortunate and unexpected incidents.
As a frequent flyer myself, whilst taking many thousands of flights I continue to be perplexed and annoyed at the stupidity and impatience of others when it comes to knowing why to fasten your seatbelt. It is a simple process to just connect the belt until the buckle clicks.
Fasten Your Seatbelt For Take Off
If you want to go anywhere on a plane then naturally we have to take off at some point. This is a customary point of where stewards and stewardess’ ask “Please fasten your seatbelt”. The request tends to be as the aircraft is about to or has just begun taxing.
Through my extensive travels I’ve seen mixed levels of compliance with this standard requirement.
In the years 2000 and 2001 I lived and worked in Saudi Arabia. It was comical at that time to fly with the Middle Eastern airlines, particularly Saudia (Saudi Arabian Airlines). Many Saudis would either fasten then immediately unfasten their seatbelt once a steward past them.
Others would just point blank refuse to fasten their seatbelts. Air host and hostess’ would come and ask them to “Fasten your seatbelt”. This would be greeted with refusal as they just recite the term “Inshallah”. This is a term often used by Muslims to mean it is God’s will, or their fate is at the hands of Allah/God and not to some seat belt.
As non-Muslim Westerners we often thought to ourselves that Allah gave you the seatbelt so use it. It is God’s will that you fasten the seat belt into the buckle whilst on the plane. If an unfortunate incident happens then yes “Inshallah”, it is then God’s will as to whether you’ll survive or not.
In more recent times I’ve seen people being ignorant of an air hostess’ plea to switch off their mobile phone whilst the plane was taxing. They just kept going with their conversation and ignored the request.
I was quite tempted to get up and take the phone from them but it was not my place to do so.
On planes you are bound by a requirement to comply with the instructions of the air crew, whether you like it or not.
Keep your seat belt fastened during the flight
Once an aircraft levels off at its cruising height, which can be around 30,000 ft for a large aircraft the fasten your seatbelt sign is often switched off, barring turbulence.
I’m amazed at how relieved so many people are to make the click sound of unfastening their seat belt. Is it really that uncomfortable to wear?
If the belt is feeling a bit tight you can loosen it so you’ve got some room to wiggle around. I understand that this is not as safe as a secure, tight fit but it is a darn sight better than not being fastened at all.
Over the years I have recollections of sudden and dramatic air turbulence which even the cockpit didn’t expect.
I remember a Singapore Airlines flight to Australia where sudden turbulence had the cabin crew running for their seats, with clear evidence of fear in their eyes.
I remember a horrendous flight between Budapest and Prague which only lasted an hour but the turbulence was like a nightmare roller coaster ride.
In 2001 I took a flight around the Middle East. The plane had been cruising smoothly for a long period of time. Suddenly the plane dropped what I estimate to be around 100 ft or more in a second. That is only my estimate, it could have been more or less than that but it was extreme.
The sensation of the drop was dramatic and I clung to my seat arm rests tightly. A sudden and dramatic roller coaster ride began for 10-15 minutes on what until then was a very smooth flight.
Turbulence can happen at any time, yes any time. Turbulence or “rough air” as some US based carriers call it can and will happen.
A quick search on the internet can reveal the extent and types of injuries people suffer from turbulence. If people are so darn stupid enough not to adhere to the “fasten your seat belt” request then you have no sympathy from me. That is right, you deserve every injury you get, even a fatal injury.
At the end of August 2013 Thai Airways reported that 39 people were injured on one of their A380 flights from Bangkok to Hong Kong due to turbulence.
Around the same time Hong Kong Airlines reported 3 passengers and 3 crew were injured due to turbulence and required hospital treatment.
According to casa.gov.au between 1981 and 1997 there were 3 fatalities from turbulence of which 2 were due to the passengers not wearing their seatbelt whilst the sign was on! A further 80 suffered serious injuries, of which 73 were not wearing their seatbelts. More recent facts can be found here.
Whilst there is modern technology today and aircraft in front of yours give warning of turbulence pockets it is not full proof. Clear air turbulence cannot always be foreseen, radars cannot detect it and it can occur when there are no clouds visible.
Whenever I am on a flight I follow the guidance and I think so should you. I keep my seat belt fastened at all times, unless I am moving from my seat.
When I am going asleep I keep my seatbelt fastened over the top of my blanket. It is not a major restriction and I can manage to twist and turn in my sleep.
If you are a larger person then you should know that you can get belt extensions with a buckle so you can expand the size of a standard seatbelt.
Fasten Your Seatbelt for Landing and Taxiing
For me this is a no brainer yet it is still beyond some people. The plane is landing which is one of the high risk manoeuvres of the flight and therefore more dangerous. In the exceptionally rare chance that something goes wrong then you are likely to be thrown around like a rag doll.
So please fasten your seatbelt.
Admittedly the crew go around and check that everyone has fastened their seatbelt. Well they do for the vast majority of occasions, I’ve seen the rare exception in my time.
The approach to the landing is not really the area where peoples dumb stupidity takes hold, it is more the taxiing once we’ve landed.
I hate it when the plane has literally touched down and is bombing down the runway at 80-90 mph. Then all you hear is “click” “click” “click”.
It just takes one dumb idiot to unclick their seatbelt then it is as if everyone is at it.
I used to hate it in the Middle East. Whilst the plane was still braking on the runway there would be numerous people getting up from their seat to grab their bags from the overhead cabin. This is not an exaggeration, it is very true.
Only last year I was on a flight to the US. No sooner had the plane left the runway and began the long taxi to the gate that the idiots appeared. I was sat in Business Class, yet 2 guys from Economy Class came walking past with their bags in hand trying to get to the front of the plane.
A stewardess quickly sent them marching back to their seat. I just wish they were restrained and forced to be the last ones to leave the plane. That would teach them.
People think that whilst the plane is taxiing it is safe. Well I can speak from significant experience that it is wise to expect the unexpected. I’ve been in taxiing planes which have made sudden emergency stops. Just like in a car.
Only last month my plane was overshooting the turning for the gate. The pilot braked suddenly and then made a very sharp turn. The sudden braking will have caught out anyone who failed to comply with the “fasten your seat belt” request.
I think airlines should introduce some automated electronic mechanism like they have on fair ground rides. Effectively the seat belt is locked and cannot be unbuckled until the seatbelt light is switched off. (Of course there could be an emergency override.)
That would teach them.
So as an experienced, in fact very experienced frequent flyer I plead with you. Don’t be an idiot. Don’t be annoying and don’t be impatient.
Do the smart thing and please fasten your seatbelt.