"In the event of a water landing, your seat cushion can be used as a flotation device."
That's part of the usual spiel that flight attendants give at the start of most long-haul flights. But it seems the Association of Flight Attendants believes passengers should have much more than a seat cushion if a plane ditches in the water.
The union, which represents more than 50,000 flight attendants, has recommended that all commercial planes be equipped with such water safety equipment as personal life vests and inflatable rafts, regardless of whether the flight is scheduled to go over water.
Federal guidelines require the extra gear only on planes that fly over water for at least 50 nautical miles. The rule was discussed at a hearing last week by the National Transportation Safety Board about the "miracle on the Hudson" incident in January 2009.
Although the US Airways flight from New York to Charlotte, N.C., was not required to have the extra water safety equipment, it did. So after the plane was hit by birds and crash-landed in the Hudson River, airline safety officials said, life vests and inflatable rafts kept many passengers from drowning.
"Seat cushions are fine, but you have to hang on to them in order for them to keep you afloat," said Corey Caldwell, a union spokeswoman. "Life vests, when used properly, allow flotation without having to expend additional effort."
The NTSB endorsed the flight attendants' recommendation last week.
The Federal Aviation Administration has 90 days to make a decision about changing the rule.
MAKING HOTEL RESERVATIONS
If you are content with your hotel room, that probably has nothing to do with how you booked it.
That is the conclusion of a new Consumer Reports survey of more than 27,000 travelers. Most guests were just as satisfied with their hotel rooms regardless of whether they booked via a phone call, through a hotel's website, used an independent travel site or walked in off the street, the survey found.
And when it comes to getting a discount, the survey found that people who haggle with hotels said they got a better room rate 80 percent of the time. (The survey didn't ask how much the hagglers saved.) The best technique, according to the survey? Negotiate over the phone before making a reservation.