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Another mystery solved! The seatback pocket rule explained

By Sean O'Neill
updated February 21, 2017

Thanks to the 150 readers who wrote in about their experiences, we now know that many flight attendants are asking passengers to remove their personal belongings from their seat back pockets. But we also know that this policy is not consistent from flight to flight or from airline to airline.

Why is that? A flight attendant for a major commercial airline, Sara Keagle, who blogs at TheFlyingPinto.com, contacted the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Aviation Safety Hotline, which is aimed at helping air crews do their job correctly. Here was the FAA agent Jim Knight's response to her question:

It is currently only FAA "guidance," not a regulation . The agency is recommending airline companies consider the guidance as a way of developing their own set of company policies.

In other words, the FAA mandates FARs (Federal Aviation Regulations) that every airline must comply with. These require by law that laptops and major personal belongings be properly stowed in the overhead bins or under the seat in front of you.

Each airline also issues "guidance." The guidance is that the FAA will support an airline that decides to ban even small personal items from the seatback pocket. Airlines can establish their own policies on this matter. The FAA will help each airline enforce its own individual company policy. The FAA is recommending airline companies consider the guidance of keeping seatback pockets empty of personal items as a way of developing their own set of company policies. But it is not a federal, consistent law.

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