Cabin crew secrets: Passengers ‘can be arrested’ for using toilet in some situations

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While to passengers it may look like flight attendants are only on hand to serve food and drinks, this is certainly not the case. Cabin crew are actually specially trained to deal with almost every possible emergency onboard, and hold special powers when in the air.

In fact, according to a number of aviation laws around the world, when a flight is in the air, cabin crew have the responsibility to undertake law enforcement if necessary.

That is, until they are on the ground, in which case the police force of whichever nation they are in will take over.

What this means, however, is that if a passenger refuses to follow orders which pertain to the safety of everyone onboard, they could face major consequences.

One flight attendant has revealed how simple these offences can be.

In a Reddit forum, the anonymous airline worker said: “You can, and probably will be arrested for disobeying crew instructions.

“Yes, the seatbelt sign is on and we have had a PA indicating turbulence.

“No, it is not bumpy right now but that doesn’t mean you can get up and use the toilet, you are a grown adult and can hold on for five minutes.”

They pointed out that disobeying crew orders can have devastating repercussions, which is why following them is so important.


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“Yes, I have seen a passenger crack vertebrae for disobeying our instructions to remain seated before hitting clear air turbulence,” they added.

In most cases, cabin crew are trained to diffuse a situation, rather than automatically threaten legal enforcement.

According to Robert Charles Lee, a former lawyer, flight attendants have five basic rights according to various air treaties and conventions.

Posting to Quora, he explained that these include:

  • The right of arrest onboard an aircraft or inflight.
  • The right to shut or reposition a passengers seat, including window blinds, tray tables, seats, hand luggage or strapping someone into their seat.
  • The right to refuse lifting hand luggage into overhead lockers.
  • The right of self-defence.
  • The right to privacy.

According to Article 10 of the Tokyo Convention, which is relied upon when considering aviation crime, in a threatening situation crew are said to have the right to take “reasonable preventive measures” without asking permission.

If a situation can not be controlled by the cabin crew, with the assistance of passengers, the pilot will be quickly notified.

Once in the air, the pilot is deemed the “commander in chief”.

Should a scene unfold dramatically, it could result in the plane being rerouted to the nearest on-ground police personnel.

Incidents are also reported to air traffic control.

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