Why Your Seat Belt Needs to Be Unfastened During Refueling

by SharonKurheg

Just like the seat belt on a car, seat belts on a plane are provided to keep you in your seat during unexpected movement. They’re not optional, and if a flight attendant tells you to put your seat belt on after the pilot has turned on the seat belt light, you better follow instructions, stay seated, and have it snugly tightened across your hips.

a close-up of a signOnce the seat belt sign is turned off, you can stand up and walk around the cabin, but once you go back to your seat, it’s recommended you keep your seat belt buckled, albeit more loosely, if you prefer.

This continues until your plane has landed, taxied and stopped at the gate. Then you hear the ding, the “Seat Belt” sign goes off, and you can unbuckle it.

If your plane is just temporarily stopping at this airport and you’ll be continuing on to your next city, the choice of wearing your seat belt until take-off is up to you. However, there’s one time when it’s required to be unbuckled: when you’re refueling.

How come?

It’s exactly what you think. Fuel…car fuel, plane fuel, whatever fuel…can be dangerous. It goes on fire. It can release fumes.

If there’s any incident related to refueling, the airline wants you to be ready to evacuate as quickly as possible. They don’t want you to have to take the extra time to fiddle with your seatbelt (since you don’t *have* to be wearing it when you’re not moving anyway).

Obviously, the chances of an “incident” are minuscule. But if something goes wrong, they want everybody to be ready. So:

  • seatbelts unfastened
  • smoking is prohibited (well, it is anyway)
  • cleaning crew can’t be blocking the aisles
  • no one is allowed in the lavatory (the flight attendants lock them so people don’t get trapped in there if other passengers are evacuating past them)
  • At least 2 doors must be at the ready for an emergency evacuation

And the refueling process can’t even begin unless the pilot (or their flight deck representative) gives the OK.

Why don’t they empty the plane?

You’d think, if there was such a small chance of an “incident” during refueling, that they’d make all the passengers unload from the plane, right?

Nope. Your safety is important, but turnaround time, and ensuring they take off when they’re supposed to, is more important.

Feature photo (cropped): avfuel.com

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