Annoying airplane rituals just might save your life

You know that part of flying that’s really annoying?

Not that part. Or that one.

No, the part where you’re all settled into your seat, comfy as you’re going to be, with a magazine on your tray table, your seat pushed back just so and your favorite music pumping through your earbuds. Then the intercom squawks.

“The captain has turned on the seat belt sign. Please return to your seats and fasten your seat belts, make sure your tray tables are up and any carry-on items are properly stowed, bring your seatbacks to their full, upright positions and turn off all electronic devices.”

Sigh.

But here’s the thing: Complying could save your life. Or, if I’m on your flight, mine.

Those annoying instructions exist to one end: maximizing the chances that the flight attendants can evacuate that full airliner in 90 seconds flat, as they’ve been trained to do. It’s a life-and-death lesson.

Of all the things that the crash of Asiana AirlinesCQ Flight 214 might teach, for the average traveler, it is this: Speed saves.

Doubt it? Check out photos here of the plane, taken just minutes apart. Getting out fast made the difference for hundreds of passengers.

The top photo was taken by passenger David Eunner just after he escaped Asiana Air Flight 214. The bottom photo was taken just after fire crews reached the airplane.  (via Twitter)

The top photo was taken by passenger David Eunner just after he escaped Asiana Air Flight 214. The bottom photo was taken just after fire crews reached the airplane. (via Twitter)

The seatback, tray table and carry-on on instructions are there to make sure people who survive a crash aren’t trapped in their seats while fire or water engulfs the plane. The electronic devices rule (here’s something no one talks about much) is as much about making sure passengers can hear crew instructions as for potential interference with the plane’s navigation systems.

And the “return to your seats” part of takeoffs, landings and bumpy stretches happens so passengers do not become projectiles, injuring themselves and others, if the metal missile they’re riding at several hundred miles an hour encounters a problem.

Asiana Airlines Flight 214 might teach airlines lessons about proper pilot training. It might teach psychologists about the cultural cues that contribute to or inhibit crashes. It could teach airline manufacturers how to improve their products. All of that matters.

But to the flying public, the actionable lesson is simple: Pay attention, follow even the annoying instructions — and increase the chances that you and others will live to fly again.

Get travel news daily at www.sctimes.com/travel, on Twitter @LisaSSchwarz, and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sctimeslisa. Send questions to lschwarz@stcloudtimes.com.
Lisa Schwarz

About Lisa Schwarz

By day, I'm a St. Cloud Times editor guiding coverage of politics, government, public safety and business beats. By night, I'm leading the cubicle jailbreak as the Times Traveler. Follow me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/LisaSSchwarz and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sctimeslisa
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