There has been lots of talk lately about the FAA’s rule about having only official airline-approved materials (safety brochures, in-flight magazine, air-sickness bag) in the seat back pocket. This may be a rule, but it is certainly not a 100% enforced rule. Only once have I had a flight attendant tell me that I could not store my laptop in the seat back pocket (this was on a commuter jet). So instead I placed the laptop under the seat in front of me to follow ‘the rules’ (my laptop bag had to be gate-checked because it was too big for the tiny overhead bins). If we were to hit any turbulence, the loose laptop had a much more likely chance of going airborne instead of safely being tucked inside the seat back pocket. I think it was this same flight attendant who told me we could not take off if I had my purse on my lap (my purse is a wallet, so not big at all).
Regardless of this one seat back pocket event many flights ago, I have never heard of this FAA rule until last week. I checked with several flight attendants from various major airlines. They had not heard of the rule either, and some of them checked with their companies to verify that they were not enforcing it. Not only were none of the major U.S. airlines enforcing it, the flight attendants said that they dreaded the day if they ever had to enforce it!
Can you imagine waiting to take off until the flight attendants had checked down into the depths of every seat back pocket? We would never take off on time! And then they would need to check the pockets again in preparation for landing … so we would end up circling for an hour while they did pocket-check. It is already difficult enough for flight attendants to get everyone to cooperate with the no phone and electronics rule. Airlines would need to replace the fabric or leather pockets with clear vinyl that flight attendants could see through, and that is an expense the airlines do not need now.
And what about the creative companies that have developed seat back carriers that hold lots of stuff in a myriad of pockets (especially great when traveling with kids) – is that now also against the rules?
I went to www.faa.gov and www.tsa.gov and looked for any articles on “seat back pockets”, but found nothing. So until the rule is enforced and made public to travelers on these websites, I am going to continue filling my seat back pocket with magazines, my iPod and water bottle. And I think most flight attendants will be A-Ok with this.