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10 Airline Safety Tips

by Peter Savage, Author of The Safe Travel Book

1. In crowded terminals or flights, try to find a buddy in line or in the seat next to you if traveling alone, so that you are watching his or her bags at the counter or on board and he or she is watching yours.

2. When putting your carry on baggage through the x-ray belt, put your laptop last so that it comes out behind your other luggage, and with luck, about the same time you are cleared to pick it up-or, better yet, have a buddy that has cleared security keep an eye on your laptop until you have cleared security.

3. Put your luggage in the overhead bin across the aisle from you so that you can see that no one is opening your luggage during the flight. Overhead storage bins may not be able to hold very heavy objects during turbulence, so if you or another passenger is having trouble lifting an article into the bin, have it stored elsewhere.

4. Dress for comfort and safety-best protection from heat and fire is natural fiber (cotton, denim, leather, wool) so avoid synthetics and bear in mind that the safety slide is pretty rough material and the end has strips of Velcro, so a skirt and panties will not survive the trip down-women should use natural fiber slacks.

5. The safest seating is on the exit aisle in the back of the airplane-usually farthest from impact and farthest from explosive fuel.

6. The time for greatest concern is during take-off and landing so nonstop flights reduce exposure to these most accident-prone phases of flight. You should have an evacuation plan in mind-memorize how many rows to each exit point. Choose larger aircraft whenever possible, as they provide a better opportunity for passenger survival. Planes with more than 30 passenger seats are designed and certified under the strictest regulations.

7. Always carry a penlight flashlight for use in an emergency when no other source of light may be available. Follow directions from the flight crew and exit the aircraft as quickly as possible.

8. If you are traveling over water, make sure you know how to locate and don your life jacket or floatation device. The primary reason flight attendants are on an aircraft is for safety, so if one of them asks you to do something like fasten your seat belts, do it-ask questions later.

9. Carry your passport even on domestic flights. During a crisis, U.S. flights may be diverted to Mexican or Canadian airports and having a passport will facilitate the border crossing.

10. Don't drink too much alcohol! The atmosphere in an airliner cabin is pressurized to about the same altitude as Denver, so any alcohol you consume will affect you more than at sea level. Moderation is a good policy at any altitude. Drinking non-caffeinated products is a good practice as well.

Bonus Tips!

Some aspects of the check in and security screening process are pretty routine and well known, but travelers often overlook some obvious points such as the following:

  • Do not lock your bags because the TSA (Transportation and Safety Administration) may have to open your bag for inspection. Refer to the TSA for updates on restrictions (
  • Limitations on carry-on items are now strictly enforced to one carry-on item and one personal item, such as a laptop, handbag, or briefcase, and restrictions should be observed.
  • A packing list will assure you of what is missing after an inspection-and don't pack anything that may potentially cause you personal embarrassment.
  • For ease of clearing security, limit the amount of metal on your person and put all metal objects-watch, pens, coins, keys, cell phone-in a zip lock bag stowed in your carry on luggage pocket. That leaves only a belt buckle and shoes with metal to be removed.
  • If you have a complaint about TSA's clearance process, do not raise it until you have already cleared security, then get the proper forms to file (otherwise you will be a long time being cleared, if at all).
  • International trips require a higher standard of care and planning. Different screening processes may be used in other countries and this and other security issues should be researched in advance.

A general safety checklist includes many of the standard provisions and is a good review:

  • Wear a safety strap for eyeglasses and bring an extra pair just in case they are broken, lost or stolen.
  • Always carry your International Certificate of Vaccination-ICV (yellow book) so that medical personnel can rule out certain diseases, if you become ill. Your ICV will contain all recent vaccinations for travel as well as have sections to document any chronic medical conditions, blood type, allergies, and eyeglass prescription.
  • It is always a good idea to list your blood type on your passport and to make photocopies of your passport and visa.
  • Stow passports & visas independently of your originals (carry two extra passport photos in case your passport is lost or stolen).
  • I always carry an emergency escape smoke hood as well. A smoke hood will give you extra time to breathe filtered air during an escape from a smoke filled cabin.

Bon voyage and safe smiles!

Peter Savage is Director of Security for Passport Health and this article is reprinted with permission from Passport Health.