Do the FAA’s ‘Silly Rules’ Accomplish Anything?

Travel Blog  •  Michael Yessis  •  10.01.10 | 12:26 PM ET

Not really, writes Willy Stern in the Weekly Standard. To Stern, the silly rules include mandatory seat belt fastening, the cell phone ban and requiring seats upright for landing.

What’s at work here is society’s unhealthy fear of risk—a problem that is compounded by scaremongering in the press and the prevalence of lawsuits over the most minor injuries and actions—and a reluctance to assume personal responsibility in the face of the ubiquitous Nanny State. But there’s also simple inertia.

“In 21 years of flying, I never once heard a flight attendant complain about enforcing these rules,” says Candace Kolander, now coordinator of air safety for the Association of Flight Attendants. “It’s not an annoyance for us. You hear the bongs and you go through the ritual. It’s ingrained.” Indeed, it is ingrained, and that’s part of the problem. Luke Froeb of Vanderbilt University’s Owen Graduate School of Management explains that institutions like the FAA fall victim to what behavioral economists call a “status quo” bias, where rules—no matter how ridiculous—are almost impossible to change once in place.

Fun fact from the piece: The regulation that requires seats to be upright for takeoff and landing runs 1,382 words, more than double the amount of words in the U.S. Bill of Rights. (Via The Morning News)

4 Comments for Do the FAA’s ‘Silly Rules’ Accomplish Anything?

Mike Goldstein 10.01.10 | 7:10 PM ET

I met a flight attendant who broke 10 ribs because the plane suddenly dropped. She hit the ceiling and came down on an armrest, then spent the next year recovering. After hearing that story, I decided I’m not too cool to buckle up.

Many of these rules set a precedent for order, and though it may be overly controlling, I prefer it to chaos. On buses around South America I was amazed at how loud and long people talked on their cell phones - or listened to music on their cell phone speakers - late into the night with no regard for fellow passengers.

I do think there are silly rules (I once had my precious jar of peanut butter confiscated because it’s a “liquid”) but I don’t think the cell phone or seat belt rules are out of line.

Laura 10.02.10 | 5:11 PM ET

Although inconvenient and annoying, I’ll follow these rules every time if it means keeping my family safer while traveling.

James 10.02.10 | 6:23 PM ET

Stern sounds like a petulant child. No! Shan’t! Can’t make me! Na-nah!

RNB 10.04.10 | 7:55 AM ET

Three times in this short article, Stern complains about the inconvenience of having his in-flight nap cut short.  Oo!  Did some-un wake up grump-y?

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