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Seatback Pockets: Barf Bags Only, Please

According to Joe Sharkey over at the New York Times, things might be a little different on your next flight. Is it a new fee? Perhaps an airline charging for the bathroom?

No, you just won’t be able to put anything in the seat back pocket.

Apparently Sharkey was on a flight recently and was instructed before takeoff that “as a safety measure, nothing could be placed in seatback storage pockets—no eyeglasses, no ticket stubs, no iPods or bottles of water or magazines.” A flight attendant said new regulations from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) prevent passengers from putting any personal items in the pocket. Only “company-printed” material such as magazines, airsick bags, and safety cards are permitted.

Sharkey reports that this comes as news to some airlines, including United and US Airways, both of which were involved in his flight. But the FAA is speaking to carriers and instructing them to keep an eye on seatback pockets.

Bottom line: Don’t be surprised if a flight attendant asks you to remove your book, magazine, or sandwich from the seatback. Enforcement of the rule (the FAA says its more of a suggestion than a hard-and-fast rule) will be spotty for a while and may never truly catch on. But it’s real. Sharkey points to a 2007 directive on cabin safety which says “nothing can be stowed in the seat pockets except magazines and passenger information cards.”

My question is: Is having a sandwich in the seat back pocket really that dangerous?

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