View Full Version : Passenger Seat Back latching - Important?

23rd Oct 2001, 03:39
Does it matter if a seat back won't stay in the upright position for takeoff and/or landing? Does it have safety implications?

Should cabin staff care?

Should a captain or an airline care?

On a flight from Geneva to Luton last week, I got seat 18c, on the aisle. The seat back was in reclined (slightly - as far as it goes) position. I knew from previous flights that I would be asked to put it as far upright as it goes for T/O so I did it myself. After a minute or so of normal leaning back on it, it slowly (as if on a hydraulic damper) reclined itself. I thought I must have failed to latch it properly so I did put it up again and made sure it was firmly held. Again after a minute or so it slowly lowered itself.

Just before T/O a cabin attendant came round and told me to put it up. I explained that it was defective. She ignored that and made me put it up again. I did. She went away. The seat back subsided again.

When we started descent for LTN, the same attendant reached my seat and told me to put the back up. I told her again it was defective and wouldn't stay there. She made me put it up again. I did. She went away. The seat back subsided again.

She came back and the episode repeated itself.

Finally, her colleague came by, saw the seat back reclined, and we went through it all again. I was pretty exasperated by this time. She told me I should speak nicely to her and made me put the seat up again. I did. She went away. The seat back subsided again. The passenger next to me who had observed all these incidents said to me "she was a bit naughty, speaking to you like that!".

Not wishing to be accused of air rage, get forcibly retrained, and then arrested, I left matters there until the flight was over.

Then I tried to speak to the captain to ask if it was a reportable problem that this seat was defective. I was told he was too busy.

So: a) my questions as above - is there a safety issue with these seats, and should someone care?

b) If a pax draws attention of cabin crew to such a seat, is the right approach for them to ignore the symptom and tell the passenger to do it right and not complain? Or is there another, preferred, way of cabin crew handling defective seat issues and the people who tell them about them?

Chris N.

23rd Oct 2001, 03:49
The Chief Cabin Crew / Purser / Customer Service Manager / Chief Cart Tart / whatever name you want to give him or her, normally has a 'Cabin Defects Book'. During a flight, if the Head Cabin Crew becomes aware of a cabin defect, like a pax seat that won't stay upright, they enter the defect in the book, and during the next turnaround the engineers try to fix it.
As far as your particular episode goes, the waters are muddied by those pax who, after being told to put their seats upright, do so, then recline them as soon as the Cabin Crew's back is turned.

23rd Oct 2001, 03:52
Inform the cabin staff that the seat is defective and needs to be fixed or replaced before take-off.

If this cannot be done, ask to be assigned another seat.

If nobody cares to pay due attention to your information report the seat number, carrier, flight number and date to the local CAA.

23rd Oct 2001, 04:01
I don't believe that the seatbacks are actually "latched" in position. From the feel of it it seems that hydraulic pressure holds them in position.

It is unfortunate that the captain concerned deigned not to speak to you. Even if he had been unable to help it would have shown some consideration if he had actually discussed your problem. Still, it may have been a training flight or his 5th flight of the day so who are we to judge...

rhythm method
23rd Oct 2001, 04:55
The seatback does not actually latch in position. Previous posting is correct, a hydraulic damper (called a gas strut) allows motion forward and back within pre-set limits defined by the seat manufacturer. A seat which reclines with only passenger pressure applied without pushing on the recline button is most likely leaking pressure through a faulty seal within the gas strut. This should be acknowledged by the cabin crew member, noted in the cabin defects book, and (IMHO) should render said seat as unserviceable until repaired.

It does have a safety implication as a reclined seat will impede the escape of anyone sitting behind it in the event of an emergency. The captain should have spoken to the passenger (if indeed he was actually told and it wasn't simply a case of fobbing off the passenger) about the problem (even from the selfish point of improved public relations).

If, as stated, this is an ongoing problem then I'd view this as a blatant disregard for a safety issue by the airline in question, and they'd be on very shaky ground if the CAA or other authority were made aware of the fact!

Probably wrong, but was this any of the 'low-cost' operators? Me senses a link!!!

[ 23 October 2001: Message edited by: rhythm method ]