Why New United Seat Belt Rules Goes Into Effect Today

by SharonKurheg

Turbulence (or, as it’s been called by some airlines, “rough air”) has become more of an issue in recent years, resulting in more injuries:

A now-viral TikTok video of video from the cockpit of a Boeing 737-800 as the plane went through severe turbulence gives an idea of what it looks like from a pilot’s point of view:

@aviacao.e.curiosidade

Boeing 737-800 Turbulence #aviacao #plane #pilot #airplane #aviationlovers #tiktokplane #turbulence

♬ som original – Aviação e curiosidades

This past summer, Scientific American wrote about why flights are becoming bumpier. It’s due to changes in the jet stream, which planes sometimes use to help them reach their destination faster while using less fuel. It’s been estimated that turbulence in the North Atlantic jet stream increased in frequency by 17 to 55 percent from 1979 to 2020, and models predict it will increase another 100 to 200% increase over the next 30 to 60 years.

Turbulence happens at all different levels – here’s the list of variations. Of course, the more forceful levels make it onto the news, but even under the right circumstances, even light levels of turbulence can cause hospitalizations.

Keeping your seat belt on is the best way to stay safe during turbulence.

a close-up of a sign

However, the rules for wearing seat belts differ for passengers and flight attendants. The NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) published a safety research report in 2021 that said while passengers account for 21% of injuries due to turbulence (virtually all because they weren’t wearing seat belts), 79% of such injuries, also due to not wearing seatbelts, are to flight attendants.

Following the report, NTSB asked the FAA to revise their airline turbulence guidance for flight attendants. To date (2 years later), the FAA still hasn’t acted on the NTSB’s recommendations.

And since then, of course, there have been more issues and injuries due to turbulence, particularly at levels below 10,000 feet, the majority of which occur to FAs, who don’t have to use their seat belts at the same time as passengers.

United making their own changes

Although the FAA hasn’t made any changes to heed the NTSB, United Airlines has decided they will. To that end, effective today, a new policy goes into effect. Flight attendants will be required to be in their seats earlier – at the 10,000-foot mark on descent, flight attendants must be seated, with their seat belts fastened.

This change won’t affect passengers much, save for service ending sooner. Also, before landing, United passengers should expect to have to stow away their carry-ons, laptops, etc. earlier, to give flight attendants adequate time to ensure compliance with the new policy.

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary

3 comments

SMR December 1, 2023 - 12:37 pm

How is that TikTok video severe turbulence. Looking at the cross bars … I don’t even think it would be moderate.

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dee December 7, 2023 - 3:14 pm

crazy rule it leaves the trash and cups etc at your seat so after landing more cleanup!!!!

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Bobby December 8, 2023 - 3:11 am

When I fly KLM or Singapore Air the seatbelt sign comes off just a few minutes after takeoff and well before leveling off at cruising altitude. And it doesn’t come back on til a little before actual landing. This is for everyone, crew and passengers alike. Why don’t we hear tons of stories of injuries on these airlines?? United has always left the seatbelt sign on way too long, now they are going to increase it? Good grief.
(Commented edited by YMMV to remove social-political comments that are unrelated to the topic)

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