I’ve often wondered why the seatbelt sign blinks and chimes throughout a flight, even in clear skies. It happens so often that I usually just keep my seatbelt on at all times. I know it’s recommended that you keep it on, but I used to have the feeling it was optional, except that blinking (good replacement for an expletive that still sounds relevant to the story) sign keeps me from unclipping and slouching comfortably in my seat.
Why the constant chiming and blinking? Why?
Well, it turns out that, yes, when the seatbelt sign is on you should be in your seat with your seatbelt fastened. When it’s off you can unclip and wander about the cabin. In theory.
But the seatbelt sign is also used by the flight crew to send signals to the cabin crew without having to make a formal announcement, reveals Virgin Atlantic flight attendant Laura Hutcheson.
“A double chime and flash of the seat belt sign means that take-off or landing is imminent, and it is the final sign from the captain for the crew to take their seats,” Ms Hutcheson told The Washington Post.
Like some strange crossover of signal lamp flashing and Morse code, different numbers of flashes and chimes on the seatbelt sign can be code for different requests and notifications, according to the airline.
Flashes could mean a change in altitude, imminent turbulence, or if the pilot needs a cup of coffee. Two flashes could be indicative of an imminent take-off or landing, cueing flight attendants to buckle into their jump seats, according to ParkSleepFly.
Three dings are usually a priority message from the flight deck to cabin crew, such as a severe turbulence warning informing flight attendants to put away rolling carts and prepare for bumpy skies.
Flight attendant Annie Strand recently revealed what it means to see the sign repeatedly flashing during take-off or landing.
“This means the situation is so severe that the pilots don’t even have the time to inform us that we’re doing a safety landing (a nicer word for evacuation or emergency),” she wrote on Quora.
“If I see this, it means that we’re approximately 30 seconds of impacting with the ground, and who knows what happens next?
“In that 30 seconds I have to put all my fear of dying aside, and yell ‘Bend down’ as if my life depended on it.”
Have you ever noticed the seatbelt sign seemingly unnecessarily flashing and beeping?
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