The Extra Mile

Why can't I use headphones or a laptop while my plane lands?

Our travel expert has the answer

09 June 2019 - 00:11
Putting your laptop away when the flight attendant asks you to could help you avoid injuries if things get bumpy.
Putting your laptop away when the flight attendant asks you to could help you avoid injuries if things get bumpy.
Image: 123RF

Q. When flying, why do I have to take off my headphones and put away my laptop before the plane lands? Often the crew will ask me to do it long before we reach our destination. - G Davidson

A. To be fair, I have often wondered the same thing, especially when a flight-attendant gets all school prefect on me for not whipping my headphones off fast enough seconds after the plane begins its descent.

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Pilot Patrick Smith, author of Ask The Pilot, assures us there are excellent safety reasons. Laptops need to be stowed away to prevent them from turning into "200-mile-per-hour projectiles" in, say, a hard and heavy landing. If the plane bounces on the runway, your 1.5kg laptop is going to get airborne, probably in the direction of your head or someone else's, and it'll probably hurt.

Passengers are also required to take off their headphones so that they can hear announcements and instructions in the event of an emergency, says Smith.

This makes sense when you consider that takeoffs and landings are the two most critical phases of flight, when the aircraft is departing and approaching the hard, unyielding Earth at high speed.

This is why you also have to stow your tray table. Despite its flimsy appearance, it has enough edges on which you might impale yourself in a hard landing.

Plus, writes Smith, "it allows a clear path to the aisle during an evacuation".

Having said all this, I see more and more people who don't remove their earbud headphones on takeoff or landing, which suggests that some airlines - or maybe just some cabin crew - have given up trying to persuade people that being alert is for their own good.

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