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Old 01-20-2019, 12:50 AM
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Airplane Tall Tale - Domestic flight where passengers prevented from using restrooms for 8 hours?


The last time I was on an airplane I was seated directly behind an older man who enraptured everyone around him with his exciting tales of flying. One of his tales was that apparently he was on a domestic flight that was around 8 hours long where due to near constant turbulence the "Fasten seatbelt sign" was on the entire time and the flight attendants were actively telling people to not get up to use the airplanes restroom, so for over 8 hours nobody at all used the restroom and by the end of the flight people were literally screaming because they were holding it in so bad.

Now, I know there have been flights where due to the restrooms being broken no-one was allowed to use them, and I also know on some very short flights (less than an hour) the airline has a strict no rest-room policy. However is it really possible for the restrooms to be in perfectly working order and for the flight attendants to actually prevent people from using them even in an emergency for eight straight hours? Seems like that would likely lead to a massive passenger revolt if that happened especially if little kids are screaming their heads off at not being able to use the restroom.
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Old 01-20-2019, 06:50 AM
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You can put me down as skeptical.

I've been on a number of flights where turbulence kept the Fasten Seatbelts sign lit, but some people still used the bathrooms - and it didn't take 8 hours.

In one case I overheard a flight attendant telling a woman she should return to her seat, to which the response was: "Sorry - no. I promise you wouldn't like what'll happen if I do" - said with enough conviction that the flight attendant politely stepped aside.
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Old 01-20-2019, 08:33 AM
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The last time I was on an airplane I was seated directly behind an older man who enraptured everyone around him with his exciting tales of flying. One of his tales was that apparently he was on a domestic flight that was around 8 hours long where due to near constant turbulence the "Fasten seatbelt sign" was on the entire time and the flight attendants were actively telling people to not get up to use the airplanes restroom, so for over 8 hours nobody at all used the restroom and by the end of the flight people were literally screaming because they were holding it in so bad.

Now, I know there have been flights where due to the restrooms being broken no-one was allowed to use them, and I also know on some very short flights (less than an hour) the airline has a strict no rest-room policy. However is it really possible for the restrooms to be in perfectly working order and for the flight attendants to actually prevent people from using them even in an emergency for eight straight hours? Seems like that would likely lead to a massive passenger revolt if that happened especially if little kids are screaming their heads off at not being able to use the restroom.
An 8 hour domestic flight? Was this the slow plane from Miami to Anchorage? I didnít think there were any domestic routes that long.
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Old 01-20-2019, 08:58 AM
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I'm aware of a few cases where airliners were stuck on a runway for hours at a time, thus forbidding bathroom use. I don't recall if any of those made it to 8 hours, though.
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Old 01-20-2019, 09:00 AM
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An 8 hour domestic flight? Was this the slow plane from Miami to Anchorage? I didn’t think there were any domestic routes that long.
The few nonstop flights from the east coast to Honolulu take ~11 hours and the return flights are ~9 hours. I think that's about it, though.

Last edited by Lord Feldon; 01-20-2019 at 09:03 AM.
  #6  
Old 01-20-2019, 09:38 AM
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I'm aware of a few cases where airliners were stuck on a runway for hours at a time, thus forbidding bathroom use. I don't recall if any of those made it to 8 hours, though.
Years ago, my ex-wife and I and three kids sat on a plane for four hours at the gate in Los Angeles while a problem was attempted to be repaired.They finally deplaned all of us and had to bring in another aircraft. That was a painful four hours.
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Old 01-20-2019, 11:48 AM
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Did the "older man" say this flight was recent?

I mean American Airlines did set a new record when it flew coast-to-coast on its brand-new DC-7 in only 8 hours. I hate to imagine how long it took before then. (I don't even know if planes could fly that long non-stop before then.)

I notice that flight attendants have become a lot (I mean a lot) more laid-back about the seat belt signs in recent years and pilots have become a lot more negligent in remembering to turn them off. I remember only a few years ago, they turned red in the face shouting at people not to get up. Now they might make a polite announcement if too many people get up.
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Old 01-20-2019, 12:04 PM
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My suspicion is that there might have been a kernel of an actual event in the old man's story, and that he embellished it a great deal (to make it a more riveting story) by making the flight a lot longer than it actually was.

I *have* had instance in which I've been stuck in my seat for several hours, sitting on the ground -- in those cases, as I remember it, we were waiting for clearance to take off, due to weather at the destination, and the crew didn't want to find themselves in the position where they had finally been given a window to take off, and were unable to do so, because there were passengers out of their seats, and in the restrooms.

I've also had a few terrible, turbulent flights, in which not only was the seatbelt light never turned off, but the turbulence was so bad that getting out of your seat would have been incredibly foolish. But...not anything ever coming anywhere close to eight hours.
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Old 01-20-2019, 12:36 PM
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I've also had a few terrible, turbulent flights, in which not only was the seatbelt light never turned off, but the turbulence was so bad that getting out of your seat would have been incredibly foolish. But...not anything ever coming anywhere close to eight hours.
I have had this happen as well. Overhead bins opening. Sudden drops and ups. Plane movement violent enough that getting up for anyone, including the attendants, was impossible. Of course, when it was that bumpy, those who needed to use the bathroom probably had it scared right out of them.

It was definitely not 8 hours, however.
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Old 01-20-2019, 01:01 PM
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I'm aware of a few cases where airliners were stuck on a runway for hours at a time, thus forbidding bathroom use. I don't recall if any of those made it to 8 hours, though.
Back in 1994 myself and another Deputy were sent for some special training that was given at the resort at Stone Mountain outside of Atlanta. After a week we were flying out of ATL and had been dropped off early so we spent 4 hours drinking at the various airport bars (this was off duty/personal time). When we finally got on board we were 25th in line for take off during a thunder storm. We sat for hours on that runway. The flight attendants were adamant nobody used the restrooms.

They really got fuckerish too. Telling people how they were going to be removed from the plane if they got up. Hmph! Some people think health care is a right. A guy with a full bladder full of overpriced beer says the right to be allowed to take a piss trumps that!
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Old 01-20-2019, 01:37 PM
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Tycho Brahe reportedly died as a result of holding it in too long.

If a passenger develops a medical condition from not being allowed to use the restroom, could the airline be sued?
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Old 01-20-2019, 03:13 PM
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Tycho Brahe reportedly died as a result of holding it in too long.

If a passenger develops a medical condition from not being allowed to use the restroom, could the airline be sued?
Fortunately, the situation in the United States today is that passengers must be allowed to use a working restroom after a two hour delay. I don't know if there is any individual right to take legal action if that rule is violated, however. Airlines are covered by an extensive web of laws and international treaties.
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Old 01-20-2019, 03:15 PM
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Originally Posted by Alley Dweller View Post
I notice that flight attendants have become a lot (I mean a lot) more laid-back about the seat belt signs in recent years and pilots have become a lot more negligent in remembering to turn them off. I remember only a few years ago, they turned red in the face shouting at people not to get up. Now they might make a polite announcement if too many people get up.
This has been my experience also. During active turbulence the flight attendants are in their seats also. But when the pilot keeps the sign on for 20 minutes after the last bump, and the flight attendants are in the aisles, people seem to use the bathrooms without problems.
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Old 01-20-2019, 03:33 PM
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I notice that flight attendants have become a lot (I mean a lot) more laid-back about the seat belt signs in recent years and pilots have become a lot more negligent in remembering to turn them off. I remember only a few years ago, they turned red in the face shouting at people not to get up. Now they might make a polite announcement if too many people get up.
That is my experience in every flight I have been on both pre and post 9/11. The seat belt sign is on and passengers are still getting up and using the restroom. If it becomes too bad, then there is an announcement something like, "Passengers are reminded to remain in their seats with their safety belts buckled while the Captain has the seat belt sign on. Please return to your seats until the Captain has turned off the seat belt sign."

I can only remember once when there was a second announcement, something along the lines of, "Passengers are once again reminded to remain seated while the seat belt sign is on. We are passing through a weather system where some possible turbulence may be encountered. You may be seriously injured if you are out of your seats at this time. Federal law requires that you remain seated at this time. Please return to your seats immediately."

Last edited by UltraVires; 01-20-2019 at 03:33 PM.
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Old 10-05-2019, 08:07 AM
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Just had another flight. I was reminded of this topic about how passengers aren't allowed to use the restroom in the lead-up to take-off, but on both flights up to and including the moment the aircraft was on the runaway about to take off people were freely using the restrooms and nobody said anything.

Wonder if this is an airline-by-airline basis.
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Old 10-05-2019, 12:37 PM
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Hell, I stayed *in* the bathroom during the entire descent and landing, on a flight to Warsaw once. I'm very prone to motion sickness, and was vomiting nonstop until the plane stopped moving.

Startled a stewardess when I finally stepped out, as she - rightfully - had no idea someone was in there.
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Old 10-06-2019, 06:10 PM
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An 8 hour domestic flight? Was this the slow plane from Miami to Anchorage? I didnít think there were any domestic routes that long.
I also don't think there are many storm systems that cause turbulence over that large an area. A storm 2,500-3,000 miles wide? Every plane in the country would have been grounded in such a weather system!
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Old 10-07-2019, 04:56 PM
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I don't understand what's so unbelievable about an 8 hour flight, Hawaii to any city Chicago and further East is 8 hours minimum.
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Old 10-07-2019, 05:15 PM
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I don't understand what's so unbelievable about an 8 hour flight, Hawaii to any city Chicago and further East is 8 hours minimum.
But a storm covering that entire area -- western 2/3rds of the USA plus half the Pacific Ocean? And that airlines would still be flying into such a storm? That's unbelievable!
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Old 10-07-2019, 05:28 PM
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But a storm covering that entire area -- western 2/3rds of the USA plus half the Pacific Ocean? And that airlines would still be flying into such a storm? That's unbelievable!
Unbelievable? Inconceivable!
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Old 10-07-2019, 05:30 PM
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I've been on plenty of flights where the "Fasten Seatbelt Sign" was on, the passengers were told not to use the restroom, and they got up - even lining up - to use the lavatory anyway. As legalistic as flight attendants can be, I think even they understand that the bowels and bladders communicate powerfully.
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Old 10-07-2019, 05:32 PM
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But a storm covering that entire area -- western 2/3rds of the USA plus half the Pacific Ocean? And that airlines would still be flying into such a storm? That's unbelievable!
My WAG is that it's not the size of the storm, but simply, that many airline pilots keep the Fasten Seatbelt sign on simply as default. They err on the side of caution, and would rather leave it on than off. (Maybe as insurance in case they are sued if there is clear air turbulence and some passenger flies up and hits the ceiling)
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Old 10-07-2019, 05:55 PM
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I usually fly United, and sometimes American.

I've seen flight attendants lock the restrooms doors before takeoff and landing (after making sure nobody is inside).
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Old 10-07-2019, 07:06 PM
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Did the "older man" say this flight was recent?

I mean American Airlines did set a new record when it flew coast-to-coast on its brand-new DC-7 in only 8 hours. I hate to imagine how long it took before then. (I don't even know if planes could fly that long non-stop before then.)
Several years ago I was looking at some vintage airline ads online dating from around the 1930s and 40s. The were touting times like New York to Miami in "only" 8 hours. The most memorable one advertised flights to Rio de Janeiro taking 3 days! I would imagine that was still fast compared to taking a steamship.
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Old 10-09-2019, 12:56 PM
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You can put me down as skeptical.

I've been on a number of flights where turbulence kept the Fasten Seatbelts sign lit, but some people still used the bathrooms - and it didn't take 8 hours.

In one case I overheard a flight attendant telling a woman she should return to her seat, to which the response was: "Sorry - no. I promise you wouldn't like what'll happen if I do" - said with enough conviction that the flight attendant politely stepped aside.
I used to fly a lot, maybe once a month, for work and family visits. During one flight, I really had to go, but the seatbelt sign was lit. A flight attendant tried to reseat me, but I got her off my back by saying "Don't worry, I take responsibility for my own actions" as I shut the bathroom door.

I mean, really. Airplanes are a lot like boats...everything narrow and tight, partly on purpose, so there's always something within reach to steady yourself. It's really no big deal to walk around when it's bumpy. Flight attendants to it continuously! So why not an able-bodied, experienced traveler?

Last edited by Limmin; 10-09-2019 at 12:56 PM.
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Old 10-09-2019, 02:01 PM
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I mean, really. Airplanes are a lot like boats...everything narrow and tight, partly on purpose, so there's always something within reach to steady yourself. It's really no big deal to walk around when it's bumpy. Flight attendants to it continuously! So why not an able-bodied, experienced traveler?
Airplane turbulence can be more than a little bumpy. It can be the plane suddenly dropping tens of feet. Which will mean that if you're not bolted to the floor, you get thrown around the cabin. You're not going to be able to steady yourself by grabbing the seat backs when that happens.

Now, that's pretty rare, but that's the reason they want you to stay in your seat with your belt fastened. They're not that worried about you tripping. They're worried about you becoming a projectile.

That said, I've been on plenty of flights where people got up to use the bathrooms when the fasten seatbelt sign was on. When you gotta go, you gotta go.
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Old 10-09-2019, 02:30 PM
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I used to fly a lot, maybe once a month, for work and family visits. During one flight, I really had to go, but the seatbelt sign was lit. A flight attendant tried to reseat me, but I got her off my back by saying "Don't worry, I take responsibility for my own actions" as I shut the bathroom door.
If this was in the U.S., it's against federal law to ignore lighted placards and/or crewmember instructions.

IANAL, but I'd bet that "when you gotta go, you gotta go" is NOT a valid defense under said law.
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Old 10-09-2019, 02:44 PM
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If this was in the U.S., it's against federal law to ignore lighted placards and/or crewmember instructions.

IANAL, but I'd bet that "when you gotta go, you gotta go" is NOT a valid defense under said law.
Sure, if they want to prosecute you they might have the law on their side.

OTOH, they might prosecute you stay in your seat to just drop your pants and pee in a bottle or on a towel/diaper, e.g. indecent exposure or something.

OTOOH, they might get on your case for creating a biohazard if you keep your pants on and just pee right on your seat.

A smart flight attendant might consider all of this and (hopefully) decide that the course of action with the least bad publicity is to relent and let you use the bathroom despite the lighted placards and risk of turbulence-related injury. Of course the particularly flight attendant you deal with on any given day might not be a smart one and might deny you the use of the bathroom without suggesting any reasonable alternative.
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Old 10-09-2019, 02:45 PM
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Airplane turbulence can be more than a little bumpy. It can be the plane suddenly dropping tens of feet. Which will mean that if you're not bolted to the floor, you get thrown around the cabin. You're not going to be able to steady yourself by grabbing the seat backs when that happens.

Now, that's pretty rare, but that's the reason they want you to stay in your seat with your belt fastened. They're not that worried about you tripping. They're worried about you becoming a projectile.

That said, I've been on plenty of flights where people got up to use the bathrooms when the fasten seatbelt sign was on. When you gotta go, you gotta go.
This. "I take responsibility for my own actions" is all well and good, but if you injure another passenger because you get thrown off your feet by unexpectedly severe turbulence, then you're also taking responsiblity for having injured someone else.

As iamthewalrus says, it's rare, but it *does* happen:
https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/seve...ry?id=63769169
https://www.cbsnews.com/news/air-can...ay-2019-07-11/
https://www.newsweek.com/viral-video...irport-1444495
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Old 10-09-2019, 02:51 PM
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If this was in the U.S., it's against federal law to ignore lighted placards and/or crewmember instructions.

IANAL, but I'd bet that "when you gotta go, you gotta go" is NOT a valid defense under said law.
I'll take the chance justifying after we get on the ground. If it's that bad that I have to defy lawful authority, what are the options? Pee (or worse!) one's pants?
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Old 10-09-2019, 03:20 PM
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Airplane turbulence can be more than a little bumpy. It can be the plane suddenly dropping tens of feet. Which will mean that if you're not bolted to the floor, you get thrown around the cabin. You're not going to be able to steady yourself by grabbing the seat backs when that happens.
This. There are a few incidents a year in which commercial aircraft have encountered turbulence that was bad enough to inflict major injuries on some of the passengers. There have also been a handful of incidents over the years in which passengers were killed. AIUI, death is typically due to head/neck injuries sustained when the plane is suddenly forced downward by turbulence, causing unbelted passengers to hit their heads on the ceiling.
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Old 10-09-2019, 03:29 PM
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If this was in the U.S., it's against federal law to ignore lighted placards and/or crewmember instructions.

IANAL, but I'd bet that "when you gotta go, you gotta go" is NOT a valid defense under said law.
I'd bet even more that it's impossible to find a jury to convict someone for walking to the bathroom on a plane while the seatbelt sign is on. Especially if any of them have ever been on a plane.
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Old 10-10-2019, 12:35 PM
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If this was in the U.S., it's against federal law to ignore lighted placards and/or crewmember instructions.

IANAL, but I'd bet that "when you gotta go, you gotta go" is NOT a valid defense under said law.
A lot of things are technically against the law but effectively never punished because laws are incredibly difficult to write perfectly.

I'd be surprised if you can find even one person who's been prosecuted just for going to the bathroom when the seatbelt sign was lit. Extra surprised if they were convicted.

This article discusses the "Don't ask, don't tell" policy of using the bathroom when the sign is lit. They can't give you permission, but they'll often tacitly allow it if it's not really that dangerous. So go, and if they stop you, go back to your seat.

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Old 10-10-2019, 12:53 PM
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Airplane turbulence can be more than a little bumpy. It can be the plane suddenly dropping tens of feet. Which will mean that if you're not bolted to the floor, you get thrown around the cabin. You're not going to be able to steady yourself by grabbing the seat backs when that happens.

Now, that's pretty rare, but that's the reason they want you to stay in your seat with your belt fastened. They're not that worried about you tripping. They're worried about you becoming a projectile.
Serious question: Why do they allow infants to ride on an adult's lap? Isn't there a risk that the child will become a projectile?
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Old 10-10-2019, 01:10 PM
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Serious question: Why do they allow infants to ride on an adult's lap? Isn't there a risk that the child will become a projectile?
Because if they did it the other way around, there'd be a risk that the child will become squashed?
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Old 10-10-2019, 01:23 PM
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Serious question: Why do they allow infants to ride on an adult's lap? Isn't there a risk that the child will become a projectile?
There's a fair chance the parent (who should be belted in) will have a grip on the kid. Even if they don't, an unbelted infant bouncing around the cabin won't do much harm to other passengers. The most injurious turbulence event, AIUI, is when the plane is suddenly accelerated downward by a downdraft more quickly than gravity can pull the people down; that's when unbelted passengers can smack their heads on the ceiling. Lateral turbulence does happen, but it's not nearly as violent as vertical turbulence can be.
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Old 10-10-2019, 04:24 PM
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Just had another flight. I was reminded of this topic about how passengers aren't allowed to use the restroom in the lead-up to take-off, but on both flights up to and including the moment the aircraft was on the runaway about to take off people were freely using the restrooms and nobody said anything.

Wonder if this is an airline-by-airline basis.
Which airline? It seems very unlikely for a western airline. We can't get clearance for take-off until we call "ready" and we can't call ready until the cabin is secured, ie all passengers seated. Having said that, I have had situations where we have been in the queue behind several other aircraft waiting to enter the runway and have had a flight attendant ask permission for passengers to get up and use the toilet.
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Old 10-10-2019, 04:38 PM
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Serious question: Why do they allow infants to ride on an adult's lap? Isn't there a risk that the child will become a projectile?
Good question. Apparently US airlines don't require the use of infant lap belts. Many other airlines around the world do though, they look like this:

https://www.flyingwithababy.com/wp-c...1/IMG_0606.jpg

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tim@T-Bonham.net View Post
But a storm covering that entire area -- western 2/3rds of the USA plus half the Pacific Ocean? And that airlines would still be flying into such a storm? That's unbelievable!
It doesn't have to be a storm and it usually isn't a storm that creates turbulence at cruise altitudes. Turbulence at high altitude is often caused by changes in the wind velocity around jetstreams, and can stretch for thousands of miles.
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Old 10-10-2019, 07:41 PM
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Serious question: Why do they allow infants to ride on an adult's lap? Isn't there a risk that the child will become a projectile?
I don't know for sure, but I expect that it's not a high risk due to the fact that you're going to be holding on pretty tight in the case of turbulence and balancing that relatively low risk against the distress and discomfort that the infant and everyone in earshot would experience if they had to be strapped into their own seats the whole time.
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Old 10-10-2019, 08:14 PM
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Originally Posted by Anny Middon View Post
Serious question: Why do they allow infants to ride on an adult's lap? Isn't there a risk that the child will become a projectile?
I think the rationale is that if it's more expensive for families with babies to fly, some of them will just drive, and adding another car to the road is way more dangerous than putting a loose baby on a plane.

Last edited by Lord Feldon; 10-10-2019 at 08:14 PM.
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Old 10-10-2019, 09:27 PM
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Originally Posted by iamthewalrus(:3= View Post
I don't know for sure, but I expect that it's not a high risk due to the fact that you're going to be holding on pretty tight in the case of turbulence and balancing that relatively low risk against the distress and discomfort that the infant and everyone in earshot would experience if they had to be strapped into their own seats the whole time.
They don't need to be strapped into their own seat, they just need to use a loop belt that attaches them to their carer.

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Originally Posted by Lord Feldon View Post
I think the rationale is that if it's more expensive for families with babies to fly, some of them will just drive, and adding another car to the road is way more dangerous than putting a loose baby on a plane.
That doesn't explain why US airlines don't provide infant lap belts. The baby doesn't need to be loose.
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Old 10-11-2019, 11:15 AM
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They don't need to be strapped into their own seat, they just need to use a loop belt that attaches them to their carer.
Ah, yeah, that seems like an obviously good idea and I don't know why the US doesn't do it.
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Old 10-11-2019, 12:07 PM
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That doesn't explain why US airlines don't provide infant lap belts. The baby doesn't need to be loose.
It costs money to make them not-loose. I don't think the FAA is considering whether some parents will choose alternative (and possibly more risky) forms of travel; likely they are only only considering whether the fleet-wide cost of adding infant restraints is justified by the expected number of lives that will be saved.
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Old 10-11-2019, 11:34 PM
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I bumped my head on the ceiling of a plane once, on my way to the rest room. Turbulence is serious stuff. LOL! I only needed to pee worse once I'd stood up again though, so I kept my date with the lavatory.
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Old 10-12-2019, 04:01 AM
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It costs money to make them not-loose. I don't think the FAA is considering whether some parents will choose alternative (and possibly more risky) forms of travel; likely they are only only considering whether the fleet-wide cost of adding infant restraints is justified by the expected number of lives that will be saved.
It costs money for any seatbelt, why does an infant miss out? Also they can double as belt extenders for large people.
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Old 10-13-2019, 04:24 PM
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likely they are only only considering whether the fleet-wide cost of adding infant restraints is justified by the expected number of lives that will be saved.
The fleet-wide cost of this would be... pretty small in the scheme of things. You wouldn't even have to have all planes equipped with them. Just give one to each of the parents with lap-infants as they're getting on the plane and collect it when they get off.
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Old 10-13-2019, 05:06 PM
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Originally Posted by iamthewalrus(:3= View Post
The fleet-wide cost of this would be... pretty small in the scheme of things. You wouldn't even have to have all planes equipped with them. Just give one to each of the parents with lap-infants as they're getting on the plane and collect it when they get off.
WAG: someone, somewhere, in the US airline industry decided that that sort of infant lap belt might be a lawsuit waiting to happen (i.e., if a parent used it incorrectly and wound up somehow injuring their child), and decided it wasn't worth the potential liability.
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Old 10-14-2019, 11:47 AM
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WAG: someone, somewhere, in the US airline industry decided that that sort of infant lap belt might be a lawsuit waiting to happen (i.e., if a parent used it incorrectly and wound up somehow injuring their child), and decided it wasn't worth the potential liability.
I don't think that's right. The FAA is presumably the body that would make the decision to require them and they are going to be immune to such lawsuits.

I expect it's just some combination of bureaucratic inertia and the fact that the FAA is an extremely conservative institution. Sadly, until some poor infant flies out of someone's hands and dies, they're not likely to see this as a problem that requires a change. And they could be right about that. How many millions of lap infants fly a year? Has any ever died due to this?
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Old 10-14-2019, 12:27 PM
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I don't think that's right. The FAA is presumably the body that would make the decision to require them and they are going to be immune to such lawsuits.

I expect it's just some combination of bureaucratic inertia and the fact that the FAA is an extremely conservative institution. Sadly, until some poor infant flies out of someone's hands and dies, they're not likely to see this as a problem that requires a change. And they could be right about that. How many millions of lap infants fly a year? Has any ever died due to this?
*nods* Upon reflection, I suspect that the truth is closer to what you note here.
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