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Why do seats have to be in an upright position during landing?

There are numerous safety routines that we all have to adhere to when taking off and landing during a flight such as pulling up the window blinds and buckling safety belts. These both have to do with safety, but one precaution that may still be a head scratcher is why do the seats have be in a the uncomfortable 90 degree upright position during takeoff and landing?

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Some believe it is to make preparations for the next flight easier, but in fact it is another safety precaution. When the seat is in the upright position it is locked, but when it is reclining it remains unlocked. If there was the unfortunate event of an emergency landing, seats in the upright position make it easier for passengers to exit the plane. All airlines are required to demonstrate quick evacuations in order to be certified.

The average space in economy class has roughly only 31 inches (78.7 cm) between the seats in a row. Think about the last time you were disembarking a plane. How much more difficult would it be if some of the seats in front of you were still in the reclining position? Now imagine trying to quickly leave your seat in an emergency situation. Those precious few inches can make a huge difference.

Another reason the seats are required to be upright is that if there was a crash landing and your seat was in the reclining position, your head would travel forward much further and with greater force. This could add to the whiplash and cause greater injury.

The passengers that are sitting behind a reclined chair also wouldn’t have the space needed to assume the “crash position” properly. And if the seat in front of them is not locked, there is a chance that it may become unbolted and be a greater danger.

But the question still remains why is it only during takeoff and landing that the seats are required to be upright. Well, most plane accidents occur during this time. So even though it may be uncomfortable to sit upright, those few minutes where you are required to be in the position may be extremely beneficial in the long run if a crash landing were to be required. Safety before comfort.

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