More than 80% of airline passengers in favour of mandatory seatbelts on flights, poll finds

Danger zone: Interior of Singapore Airlines flight SQ321 after its emergency landing at Bangkok (Reuters)
Danger zone: Interior of Singapore Airlines flight SQ321 after its emergency landing at Bangkok (Reuters)

As the world’s airlines gather in Dubai for their annual get-together, seatbelt wearing will be high on the agenda.

On 21 May, one passenger died and many were injured when a Singapore Airlines flight from London Heathrow to Singapore encountered extreme turbulence over the Bay of Bengal.

A preliminary investigation found passengers and crew endured a drop of 178 feet in just 4.6 seconds – representing a downward speed averaging 26mph. They also suffered violent changes in vertical acceleration.

The passenger who died, 73-year-old Geoff Kitchen from Somerset, suffered a fatal heart attack.

In a social media poll carried out in the wake of the event, participants voted five to one in favour of keeping seat belts fastened at almost all times.

The poll was conducted on Twitter/X and asked: “Should wearing a seat belt at all times on planes (except when using the washroom) be mandatory?”

More than 4,500 self-selecting people responded, with 84.1 per cent voting in favour and only 15.9 per cent against.

Snap poll: The response on mandatory seatbelt wearing (X)
Snap poll: The response on mandatory seatbelt wearing (X)

Among those in favour was Isabella May who wrote: “Definitely best to wear it. I once experienced clear air turbulence flying from The Gambia to London Gatwick.

“Although nowhere near as severe, it was sudden and scary. There’s simply no time to prevent injuries!”

Another respondent, Justin, wrote: “We drive for hours and it is not an inconvenience. It would not be difficult for the FAs [flight attendants] to have a screen showing who did not have their seat belts on.

He added: “If safety is really an issue why are people who have had too much alcohol allowed on a plane.”

But Kristen Covo opposed the idea, writing: “I don’t think it should be mandatory. Flight attendants have enough to worry about to also have to check in on passengers wearing seatbelts.

“In saying that I always keep my seat belt on. And pilots always caution you that you should. So just keep your seatbelt fastened!”

Matt Joy concurred: “If you make it mandatory people will complain. Most safety announcements already include a recommendation for people to keep their belt on when seated.

The International Air Transport Association (Iata), says: “Turbulence is a major safety concern. Each year, a significant number of people are injured by turbulence, while not wearing seatbelts.”

It also says the phenomenon “is increasing”.

Iata already tells passengers: “You must keep your seatbelt fastened whenever your are instructed to do so, and even simply when you are seated, to avoid injury in case turbulence is encountered without warning.”

But as the organisation’s conference got under way in Dubai, The Times reported Sir Tim Clark, the president of Emirates, saying: “We’ve had our own fair share of issues. Not as bad as Singapore Airlines, but let’s be quite honest, it’s a real race and the whole industry is now upping in the game with regard to making sure that passengers are strapped in. We are looking at all the protocols.”

Iata has a campaign called “Turbulence Aware” that is aimed at increasing the number of reports of turbulence to allow pilots to be given a better picture of likely trouble spots.