4 Things Your Pilot Really Wants You to Know

[Rick Seaney is the CEO and cofounder of FareCompare, and columnist for Investopedia. The views expressed by columnists are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Investopedia.]

Over the years, I’ve talked to lots of airline pilots and other crewmembers, and one thing I’ve heard them say again and again is, “I wish my passengers knew....” What then follows is a laundry list of safety tips, which I’ve boiled down to four main categories.

Take a look. These men and women who fly us to our destinations want us to know these things.

1. Stay in Your Seat

The days of aimlessly wandering up and down the aisles are a thing of the past, mostly due to security concerns. If you must move, and that’s always a good idea especially on longer flights, some airlines publish in-seat exercises like foot pumps and ankle circles to help with circulation and lower stress.

There are other concerns too. Every now and then, an unhappy passenger walks up to the emergency door and attempts to open it. No, it will not open during a flight. But this kind of disturbance often results in a diverted flight, sometimes jail time for the passenger and travel delays for the rest of us. Do I have to say, "Don't do this?"

2. Don’t Drink Too Much

Some of those door-opening attempts may stem from mental problems, but other incidents have been attributed to over-imbibing alcohol, illegal drugs, even prescription medication. Do not overindulge. Yes, that’s obvious advice but not everyone follows it which is a shame because alcohol has a way of blowing up minor squabbles over armrests into major battles that require flight attendant intervention.

By the way, as far as the TSA is concerned, you can bring as many mini-bottles of booze through security as you like as long as they’re in a single quart-size zip bag (the one with your toiletries). The problem with this is that, per FAA regulations, the only alcohol you can drink on a commercial plane is that which is served by the airline.

3. Keep the Seat Belt On

This is for passengers’ physical safety. According to a 2017 report from the FAA, 21 people suffered serious injuries from turbulence in 2015; in 2016, the figure more than doubled.

Solution: Keep your seat belt on any time you are seated. If the cabin seat belt sign is on, do not leave your seat. Severe turbulence can come out of nowhere, without any warning, and it can hurt you. Please buckle up.

4. We’re in Charge

Sometimes people forget who’s in charge on a plane, but not the FAA. Its regulations state the pilot in command is “directly responsible for, and is the final authority as to, the operation of that aircraft." And in case of emergency, the pilot may “deviate from any rule...to the extent required to meet that emergency." In other words, the pilot’s word is law, and passengers have to do what they are told.

As for the crew, don’t even think of giving them trouble; as the FAA puts it, “No person may assault, threaten, intimidate, or interfere with a crewmember” in the performance of their duties – which covers a pretty broad spectrum. We have seen flight attendants request passengers be removed for having crying children, and for screaming about being seated near babies. We have also seen crew members taking matters into their own hands, such as the widely-reported 2016 incident where an American Airlines pilot ‘planted’ an unruly passenger on the floor of the aircraft after the passenger shoved a flight attendant.

The Bottom Line

There are always going to be a few crewmembers who will seem unreasonable, just as there will also be a few passengers who behave foolishly. But you know what, life is short, so let’s all try to get along.

Tip: If you’re a passenger who feels you’ve been wronged, save your arguments until the end of the flight when you can file a formal complaint

For more, see Airline Passenger Rights (and a Few Wrongs) and Bizarre Airline Rules You Might Need to Know.

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