The airline seatback pocket may not be spacious, but it has at least traditionally been a place to stash your magazine or water bottle while you snooze. Not anymore.
The FAA has decreed that no passenger personal items whatsoever are allowed in the seatback pocket, as Joe Sharkey's "On the Road" column in the New York Times reported. The only things that are supposed to be in the seatback sleeve are in-flight magazines, safety brochures, the air-sickness bag, or other official material approved of by the airline.
The ban on personal items in seatback pockets is news to a lot of passengers, and news to a lot of airlines as well. Airline spokespeople have said that they had no idea there was such a ban, and that passengers have always been allowed to make use of the seatbacks.
So what's this really all about? As Sharkey's column points out, there is probably some concern that the recent introduction of baggage fees has pushed passengers to carry more items onto the plane and stuff them wherever they can, including the seatback pocket. To some extent, flight crews must also like the ban. They probably don't want the hassle of telling passengers to keep their stuff out of the seatback. But if no personal items go into the seatback pockets, cleaning the pockets out after every flight just got a whole lot easier for the crew.
How, and how often, will this ban be enforced? It's hard to tell. If a flight attendant has recently told you that personal items in the seatback are a no-no, let us know.