Flight attendants do a lot more than simply serve food and beverages onboard a flight, and in fact, they are primarily there for passenger safety. This means if an incident were to occur onboard, the crew members would be on hand to assist.
They also have the authority to request passengers to follow specific instructions onboard, especially if they pertain to safety.
Although the pilot is the one who switches the seatbelt sign on or off, it is the crew members who must ensure all passengers are obeying the instruction.
Not abiding by these instructions could have serious consequences, as one anonymous flight attendant revealed in a dedicated Reddit forum.
Posting under the name HausOfDarling, the flight attendant said: “You can, and probably will, be arrested for disobeying crew instructions.
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“Yes, the seatbelt sign is on and we have had a PA indicating turbulence.
“No, it is not bumpy right now but that doesn’t mean you can get up and use the toilet, you are a grown adult and can hold on for five minutes.
“Yes, I have seen a passenger crack a vertebrae for disobeying our instructions to remain seated before hitting clear air turbulence.”
In other situations, in the case of major disruption or violence, crew have the power to restrain unruly passengers until they land and police can be brought onboard.
Speaking to the Washington Post in August 2021, Jeff Price, professor of aviation management at Metropolitan State University of Denver said: “It’s common to use duct tape to secure a person who represents a threat to the flight or others.”
However, this type of action is only taken in extremely serious circumstances and under the instruction of the pilot.
According to Article 10 of the Tokyo Convention, which still governs much of aviation crime today, in a situation where someone onboard “is about to commit an offence liable to interfere with the safety of persons or property on board or who is jeopardising good order and discipline” crew have the right to take “reasonable preventive measures” without asking permission.
According to the International Air Transport Association: “Cabin crew are trained in de-escalation and restraint techniques and equipment (if carried) by their airline.
“There is no industry standard restraint equipment, so it is up to the individual airline.
“Some airlines may equip their cabins with kits that include restraint devices.”