Why don't passenger seats on aircraft face backwards? © Getty Images

Why don’t passenger seats on aircraft face backwards?

Backwards facing seats are certainly less conventional but could sitting backwards on a plane be safer?

Asked by: Billy Doyle, by email


Air crash investigators have found that flight stewards in rear-facing seats have suffered less severe injuries in accidents than forward-facing passengers. This is because the energy from the body as it decelerates rapidly in a crash is dispersed evenly through the seatback, rather than concentrated on the seatbelt, which cuts into a person facing forward. Although rear-facing seats are probably safer, airlines have resisted them, largely because they fear passengers will find the idea unacceptable. British Airways has installed rear-facing seats in its Club World cabins; Southwest Airlines in the US experimented with the idea in economy class, but reverted to conventional forward-facing seats.


Subscribe to BBC Focus magazine for fascinating new Q&As every month and follow @sciencefocusQA on Twitter for your daily dose of fun science facts.