Why Flight Attendants Always Sit on Their Hands During Takeoff and Landing

As with most things flight attendants do, it's all about safety.

<p>Creative Credit/Getty Images</p>

Creative Credit/Getty Images

If you're sitting near a jump seat on a plane, whether one in the galley or in the middle of the cabin, you might have noticed the flight attendants assuming a somewhat unusual position during takeoff and landing. Oftentimes, they sit on their hands.

"It's a safety position," Hilary Clark, director of in-flight services with private jet company Planet 9, tells Travel + Leisure. "The reason for this safety position is if an emergency were to occur on takeoff or landing, their head, hands, and arms are already in a slight brace position."

Remember, a flight attendant's primary job is to keep passengers safe — not just serve drinks and snacks — so they're constantly prepared for emergencies. Takeoff and landing are the phases of a flight with the highest instances of accidents, so flight attendants automatically assume a rigid position that prepares them to act efficiently and immediately in case of emergency.

Related: 8 Worst Flying Mistakes and How to Avoid Them, According to Flight Attendants

At the same time, they're often performing a "silent review" of emergency procedures, so they're ready to go if anything were to happen. Aircraft manufacturer Airbus recommends all cabin crew to perform silent reviews on each flight, according to its safety documents: "The silent review (or 30-second review) is recommended for cabin crew to mentally recall the key aspects of the emergency evacuation procedure while they are seated at their station before each takeoff and landing, and decreases the risk of distraction. This silent review will help the cabin crew to focus and be prepared in case an emergency evacuation is required. This technique will also help to minimize the startle effect."

Related: 10 Things You're Doing That Annoy Flight Attendants

Sitting on their hands isn't the only brace position a flight attendant might assume during takeoff and landing. "Depending on the jump seat position and location, and the aircraft type, they also place their head a certain way for takeoff and landing," says Clark. "For example, if their seat is facing away from the pilots, toward the aft of the aircraft, they place their head slightly up and back on the headrest. If their seat is facing the pilots, to the forward of the aircraft, they place their head down and slightly tuck their chin as if they are bowing."

As a passenger, you don't necessarily need to assume this position, too. Passenger brace positions typically involve hugging your knees or pushing your arms against the seat in front of you, though this varies per aircraft and seat type. But this is a good reminder to always review the safety card after you board an aircraft and to keep your seatbelt fastened at all times. During takeoff and landing, it's best to be alert (and not sleeping) so you're prepared for any issues. Once you hear the plane bell ding after takeoff — that's when the flight attendants get out of their seats — you can sit back, relax, and enjoy your flight.

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