American Airlines plans to have the seat belt requirement in effect by summer
Fasten your seat belts
United, American to require seat belt use on all flights at all times
March 31, 1998
Web posted at: 12:24 p.m. EDT (1224 GMT)
(CNN) -- United Airlines joined American late Monday in announcing a new policy requiring passengers aboard their aircraft to wear seat belts at all times during flight.
American became the first airline to make such a requirement with an announcement Monday afternoon, and United followed a few hours later. Delta Air Lines said it would see how the policy worked at the other airlines before making any changes.
Under current rules, passengers are required to buckle up during landings and take offs, and anytime the plane's captain turns on the seat belt sign in the cabin. The Federal Aviation Administration -- while only requiring seat belt use during take off, landing or in cases of turbulence -- praised the decision.
"Keeping your seat belt fastened all the time is the best way to protect against injury in case of turbulence," said FAA Administrator Jane Garvey in a statement made before United's announcement. "I congratulate American for taking this positive safety step and encourage other airlines to do consider doing the same."
According to FAA statistics almost 60 people are injured each year during turbulence -- mostly when passengers aren't wearing seat belts. Last December, a United flight from Tokyo to Honolulu hit what is known as "clear turbulence" -- rough air encountered with no warning in otherwise clear skies -- leaving 83 passengers injured and one dead.
"There's ... a liability issue," said CNN business travel consultant Chris McGinnis. "If an American Airlines plane hits clear air turbulence and someone is injured, they can fall back on the fact that they have it stated in their policy that they must be seated with their seat belt fastened at all times."
Patricia Friend of the Association of Flight Attendants praised American and United's move, saying passengers often take safety for granted aboard airplanes.
Flight attendants are in favor of tougher seat belt regulations
"They forget where they are and they don't think about (being) in this tube ... that's hurtling through the air at 600 miles (966 kilometers) per hour, and really operating in a hostile environment with clouds and potential thunderstorms and potential down drafts," she said.
American spokesman Tim Smith said that the seat belt requirement "seems so basic, but unless you require it, there will be that small minority that chooses not to for whatever reason."
Passengers will be allowed to remove their seat belts only for trips down the aisle or to the restroom. Neither airline gave a firm date for the start of the new policy, but American said it would begin by the start of the summer season.
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