Some thought-bite independent paragraphs that don’t add up to a coherent essay …
If everybody was like **Shagnasty **this’d be easy. We’d eliminate the stupid sign and folks’ common sense would be adequate to the task. But relatively few people are like that. Or said another way, the most clueless amongst the customers may not want, but absolutely needs, protection from their own abject cluelessness and near total absence of judgment. Protecting them from themselves involves over-protecting the Shagnasty’s of the world. Oddly enough, this is true throughout life, not just for seatbelt signs on airplanes.
We have one sign that has to give safety advice for athletic 20-somethings and infirm 80-somethings who’re wobbly enough on dry land. And for kids.
As pointed out above, the regulations require your absolute compliance on pain of truly silly fines. But the same paragraph also applies to not punching a pilot or breaking down the cockpit door. So you can see the punishment might be appropriate for those other offenses.
Certainly most FAs most of the time are reasonable about able-bodied folks being up in flight against the sign. But … They understand how mob psychology works and they’re outnumbered 50 to 1 by y’all. The first able bodied person might get a pass; after the 3rd including a wobbler or very obese person they’ve got to re-assert control before everybody starts ignoring it completely. At some point them being “reasonable” shades into them being deliberately derelict in their federally mandated safety duties. That’s a tough spot you’ve put them in.
Regulations require it to be on for all taxi, takeoff and landing ops, and for “turbulence”, without further elaboration on what those key words mean. Ideally the sign would be on exactly when needed and no more.
The need for seatbelts during taxi is pretty self-explanatory. Taxiing we can easily generate turning or braking far beyond what most of you have ever felt. If you’re standing up, you won’t be when we’re done. Where it can get stupid is the long-lasting slow-moving line where we’re moving just often enough that there isn’t time to be letting people up. Under those congested conditions we’ve got to keep moving.
Peoples’ perception of time is silly. When sitting in their seat and bored, every 10 seconds feels like an eternity. When busy walking, & peeing, & washing, & primping, even 5 minutes goes by in a flash. You can see how this time perception glitch encourages people to make bad decisions about how much time is needed versus available.
During taxi we often get a call from the back that somebody is up in the lav. We’re not obligated to stop, but we are obligated to use caution to avoid setting up a need for abrupt maneuvering, and we absolutely can’t take off. If you manage to hold it until we’re finally number 2 for takeoff, *then *you get up, expect to get barked at from the cockpit. We know you can’t know exactly where we are in the departure process. But we also know that in a backlogged situation the last thing the other *three thousand *people in our & the airplanes lined up behind us want is an extra 4 minutes of delay while *one *of our passengers pees.
Beyond the regs, different company legal departments have put different spins on how they want the sign used for liability control inflight. And if that makes it into our manuals, we have to comply or face the wrath of the Boss if we’re doin’ our own *laissaze faire *thing and somebody gets hurt. Again this comes down to us deliberately violating a federally mandated safety procedure. That’s a difficult one to explain to a hostile administrative judge looking for a fresh scalp for his/her collection.
My own personal POV is one of the biggest things I can do from my post to improve your flight is minimize the time that sign is on without good cause. Turn it off promptly, leave it off as long as practical, and don’t forget it after clearing an area of turbulence. Not only does that help you, but it helps train you that the sign means business; there’s a legit issue here.
IMO the alternative approach, leave it on a lot for corporate CYA or FA convenience quickly trains the already-rebellious public that the sign is BS and it being on has no connection to their actual safety. Which attitude they bring to their next flight. And the next …
Many pilots and some FAs have given up any thought towards enforcement. They (cynically?) decide that corporate CYA policies like “leave it on for all climbs, all descents, and whenever there’s the slightest detectable wiggling motion while level” plus the general public’s modern attitude towards authority (e.g. “screw that”) has created a situation where all passengers treat the sign as barely even advisory anyhow. So why bother pissing uphill?
OTOH, at various times in history the sign was used as a security measure around Washington DC. And may be used that way again some day. When tensions were at their highest, anyone getting out of their seat once we were in “sterile cabin” mode mandated that we divert to a distant alternate away from DC. Even for a grandmother digging in her purse in the overhead. And we were not permitted to really explain the importance of your compliance nor the consequences of your noncompliance. Had to keep the procedures and logic secret from the bad guys. Or so the brainaics at FBI / TSA / TLA-du-jour said. Happily we’re past that stage. For now.
Bottom line on the OP’s actual Qs: It’s exactly as clear and bright line as the muddled mess you just read.
For a simple toggle switch, the darn thing takes a lot of space in our policy manual and generates a lot of inflight conversation, musing, and mulling over the best, or maybe least bad, way to operate it.