Air Canada shaves fuel costs by eliminating life-jackets

Air Canada continues its race to the top of the list of the world's shittiest airlines by removing life-vests from its regional carrier Jazz, saving money on fuel in the process. In the event of a water crash, passengers can use their seat-cushions to float.

Come to that, they can use their pillows: the last time I flew AC, you had to buy a "pillow" that consisted of a giant ziploc bag that you were supposed to inflate. Passengers in business class got the same "pillows," but they were "free" (except for the extra thousands of dollars for a business-class ticket).

Jazz spokeswoman Manon Stuart said Thursday that Transport Canada regulations allow airlines to use flotation devices instead of life vests, provided the planes remain within 50 miles of shore.

Safety cards in the seat pockets of Jazz aircraft now direct passengers to use the seat cushions as flotation devices.

Stuart says Jazz is a transcontinental carrier that doesn't fly over the ocean.

Jazz planes do fly over the Great Lakes and along the Eastern seaboard from Halifax, Nova Scotia, to Boston, Massachusetts, and to New York.

Emphasis mine. Airline removes life vests to lighten planes (via Neatorama)


  1. When I flew American and American Eagle a lot a few years back when I lived in Illinois, lots of the planes would instruct you to use your seat cushion. I don’t see the big deal, I don’t think anyone involved in a plane crash has ever been saved by using a life jacket.

  2. The last time I was on an Air Canada flight, I got two free drinks, an actual pillow, and a half decent meal. The cockpit door was open for most of the flight, and a kid across the isle was happily playing with a bow and arrow set.

    As you can guess that was a long, long time ago. I take the train or carpool now.

  3. I always lament the fact that parachutes aren’t available for all passengers. Of course this is silly, but no less silly than having life vests for all passengers.

    I seriously doubt there has been an accident in commercial aviation history in which a life jacket “saved” someone’s life. If so, I doubt there are many cases. In any case, how could you prove that a life “saved” by an inflatable vest might not have been saved by clinging to a floating debris. If you could somehow prove that a particular life could only have been saved by one of those cheap, flimsy vests and not floating debris (or a seat cushion, does it justify the tens of millions, or perhaps hundreds of millions of extra dollars spent on aviation fuel to freight them? If you go down this path, it brings you right round to parachutes

    Many people have a natural fear of both flying and drowning. The inclusion of life vests, in all probability, was simply an early measure taken by the airlines years ago (when the price of fuel was relatively much less expensive) to bolster public confidence.

  4. No one has ever survived a jumbo jet water landing, with or without a life vest. However there have been a couple of cases of planes aborting takeoff or overshooting their landings and winding up in the water. I still doubt that the life vests would do anything, but those are the only cases I know of that actually do combine airplanes and large bodies of water along with some chance of survivability.

  5. I thought the real reason for the life vests (flashing light, bright orange) was just so they could locate the bodies after the crash more easily.

    Perhaps AC could charge for life vests? “Want your loved ones to be able to identify you in the unlikely event of a crash? Purchase a luxury life vest from the cabin crew for just $6. And please remember not to inflate it until you leave the aircraft.”

  6. “Ask the Pilot” has mentioned water landings a couple of times:

    “Water landing” is a snarky contradiction, but over the decades a handful of airliners have found themselves, through one mishap or another, floating. At least two of these — the 1970 ditching of a DC-9 in the Caribbean, and a 1963 Aeroflot splashdown near Leningrad, were controlled impacts with many survivors.

    But, you’ll argue, why waste our time when a flight is over land the whole way? Well, keep in mind that planes have overshot, undershot, or otherwise parted company with runways and ended up in the harbor at a coastal airport, sometimes without leaving the ground. If you’re flying from New York to Phoenix and you’re smirking as the attendant blows into that plastic tube, remember that twice since the late 1980s jets went off the end of a runway at La Guardia and ended up in the bay. Both crashes left people very much alive and very much swimming.

    In December 2002, in a discussion of “the realities of air safety,” The Economist, normally among the most factually credible magazines in the world, quoted a Mr. Jackson of “Jane’s All the World’s Aircraft” who stated: “No large airliner has ever made an emergency landing on water.” While you can argue the definition of “large,” or “landing,” this is untrue. The Economist continued, “So the life jackets, with their little whistles and lights that come on when in contact with water, have little purpose other than to make passengers feel better.” The various accoutrements of the onboard floatation devices might indeed be a bit of overkill (the larger rafts contain everything from signal mirrors to fishing line and hooks), but this unctuous remark also is false. In the above cases and others, vests and rafts were put to good use by passengers who needed them.

    Still not convinced that they’re worth it for overland flights across Canada though. They could probably find a better place for an emergency landing than a Great Lake, given that airliners can glide for quite a distance without power.

    1. TheophileEscargot,

      You interrupted the hypothesis-fest with real information. You must be new to the internet.

  7. If you’ve never landed on 33L at Logan in Boston. the last 30 seconds can be spooky. water. water. Water. Waaterrrr. WATER! WAaaaaaaa!!!!! – land-runway-squeak-squeak.

  8. I’m terrified of flying so that is why I happen to know that those vests aren’t too crash hot because passengers often inflate them BEFORE they exit the plane. This means they float to the ceiling and get stuck

  9. @MDHATTER #12:

    If you’ve never landed on 33L at Logan in Boston. the last 30 seconds can be spooky. water. water. Water. Waaterrrr. WATER! WAaaaaaaa!!!!! – land-runway-squeak-squeak.

    Hilarious! It’s too bad laugh-out-loud has become so hackneyed, but that’s the literal truth here.

  10. Life jackets on an airplane? Come on. What are the odds of a safe water landing? cost/benefit ratio is way out of wack.

  11. “Would you care for a drink, sir? Soft drink? Blanket? Pillow? Life jacket? Coke and a life jacket? That’ll be fifty-three dollars, please.”

  12. Last January I flew Air Canada from Paris — As I tried to adjust the adjustable headrest the entire assemblage fell-off, it had come unwelded somehow! It took 3 flight attendants 45 minutes to somewhat fix it so it would stay in place for the rest of the flight, but I was not allowed to adjust it after that so it poked the region near my occipital lobe throughout the flight.

    Then my video console didn’t work. It would always shut down halfway through whatever I was watching.

    When I had to change (Air Canada) planes in Toronto I became confused by all the American Flags everywhere and (probably in a fit of subconscious anti-Nationalism) went the wrong way through customs. Somehow my luggage was therefore misplaced. I went to ask about it and had the privilege of being called a “Stupid Bitch” by the male Air Canada employee working at the lost luggage counter.

    Good times.

  13. @#4 2visible: “They should remove the seats, too. We can travel standing on our own feet, hanging from bars.”

    There are concept drawings at the very least for a standing “seat”. I would not be surprised if the budget airlines pursued this.

    @#7 omnifrog: “No one has ever survived a jumbo jet water landing, with or without a life vest.”

    That’s not true:

    Of course, it depends whether you would consider a 767 a jumbo. I would.

  14. I would pay the extra few dollars to use a life jacket. It’s like paying money for cabin air, but it’s what is needed.

  15. #19: Thanks Jackie, I was about to mention flight 961. NY Times article here for extra reference What are the odds of there being 20 French doctors on holiday right near the crash?

    Anyway, as mentioned above, (#13) it looks like most of the passengers inflated their life jackets early and so got trapped. (Did they start emphasising this in the safety demonstrations before or after that? I’ve never been on a flight when they *didn’t* drill it into you not to inflate your life jacket until you’re out.)

    Anyway, the major application I can see for life jackets is for people who are stunned or unconscious after the shock of the landing, but are helped out of the wreck by fellow passengers – a life jacket will keep them afloat and their head above water, while in the floating seat scenario they’d just die.

  16. So we’re supposed to doggie paddle for 50 miles holding a floating seat cushion? Nyuh huh.

    The Mrs. and I are visiting her family in Ottawa this winter and will be taking the train. 4.5 hours instead of 1 hour on a plane, but there’s far less hassle, you end train trips fresh as a daisy, and now they have free Wifi and electricity so we can play Guild Wars the whole way. Screw airlines.

  17. An airline taking a rational approach to risk assessment? OMFG. It makes far more sense to have a life jacket in your car than it does an airplane, yet I don’t see anyone decrying the lack of life jackets in cars. The number of times where you have an airplane in the water and everyone isn’t already dead is extraordinarily small. In those few times, the life jacket is almost as likely to kill you as it is to save you as you panic and fill it BEFORE getting out of the airplane.

    I am not saying I can’t envision a time when a lifejacket won’t save someone’s life. I am saying that that instance is so incredibly rare that it is beyond wasteful to prepare for it. Not every single danger is worth preparing for. Unless you have a life jacket easily accessible in your car, you probably agree with me.

  18. They do, in fact, fly over the Ocean on the West Coast of Canada, and they also land at Vancouver – an airport with a river on one side, an ocean on another.

  19. Pretty much all the water that AC flies over is so dang cold most of the year it wouldn’t matter if you had a vest or a cushion.

  20. This is only a big deal because the media has hyped it… I’ve been on a couple non-Air Canada flights where they didn’t mention the life jacket but did mention the floating seat. I can only assume this is because the airline it was had silently moved to favoring the seats over the life jackets.

  21. it’s old and a re-post but it’s funny so I don’t care:

    “A guy sitting at an airport bar in Atlanta noticed a beautiful woman sitting next to him. He thought to himself, “Wow, she’s so gorgeous, she must be a flight attendant. But which airline does she work for?”
    Hoping to gain her attention, he leaned towards her and uttered the Delta Slogan “Love to fly and it shows?”
    She gave him a blank, confused stare and he immediately thought to himself, “Nope, not Delta.”
    A moment later, another slogan popped into his head. He leaned toward her again, “Something special in the air?” She gave him the same confused look. He mentally kicked himself, and scratched American Airlines off the list.
    Next he tried the United slogan “I would really love to fly your friendly skies” This time the woman savagely turned on him.
    “Look @”*hole!! What the F#@! do you want?”
    The man smiled. He slumped back in his chair satisfied and said… “Ahhh, Air Canada!”

  22. Air Canada, thank you for proving once again, that you have no idea how to be a good airline.

    Shameful that since Canadian Airlines went under, you got lazy. West Jet is by far a better airline than them. Air Canada insists on being crappy instead of improving and becoming competitive. I must admit, I’ve flown Air Canada a few times, and I can never say I’ve ever had a good experience. I can’t even say I had a mediocre experience. It’s always been horrible.

  23. Antinous, the Snail who Loves God may take that as real criticism. I know you’re gently joshin’, and that you mean it as praise, but perhaps a clarification might be in order.

  24. @fennylaise and anybody else saying westjet is better: have you ever seen a lifejacket on a westjet plane? the seat card says to use your cushion for flotation.

  25. @notatoad – Actually, I have seen lifejackets on West Jet. I make it a point to yank them out from under the seat partway so I know they’re there, much to the chagrin of the stewards. Though the West Jet stewards were a lot nicer about it than the Air Canada ones were.

    They don’t bother showing you the lifejacket stuff unless you’re actually flying over water. And I doubt the lifejackets will help when I’m dead in the water either, but hey, it’s better than clinging to a seat cushion full of airplane peanut farts! LOL!

  26. I remember Air Canada..

    The Airline that left us stranded on the runway for 2hours in the dead of winter as they ran around with a hair dryer trying to de-ice the plane?

    The Airline with 100% late/delayed/cancelled?

    The entire corporation should be sent to the knackers yard.

  27. In the bigger picture, why travel at all?

    Tourism? To say “I’ve been there, and there, and there.” You learn all the history that a pamphlet can provide and you never get that perfect picture of your wife and the 8-story cathedral. Las Vegas should just finish the job and do Eastern Europe, Scandinavia and whatever else you’d like to visit and take a pictures of/in.

    Visit relatives? Why aren’t they living by you anyway? Why aren’t you living by them?

    Business? Welcome to the 21st Century. Heard of telecommuting? Video-conferencing? Have to visit a construction site? Well, OK. I guess you’ll have to go.

    And where are the teleporters by now?

    Of course, I’m half joking. Only half.

  28. Thank you, God-and-or-Religion-Loving-Snail, for correcting me. I’d taken The Economist (and Wikipedia’s ‘Water Landing’) as factually correct, until now.


  29. “Stuart says Jazz is a transcontinental carrier that doesn’t fly over the ocean.”

    Wow. Okay, it isn’t *quite* the open ocean, but Jazz regularly flies over the Georgia Strait (separating Vancouver Island from the mainland).

  30. Question for Cory. If life vests on an airplane don’t meet your definition of “security theater,” what does?

  31. This is Jazz they’re talking about, a short-haul carrier that often uses smaller planes. I flew Jazz on Wednesday from Vancouver to Seattle. It’s a Dash 8. And it’s a route almost entirely over water.

    I wouldn’t mind a lifejacket for that particular flight..

  32. And the award for Best Use of Fine Art in the Service of a Comment Before 5 AM goes to … Cholling.

    Well done. I should be so clever at 5 PM!

  33. Don’t worry: The cushions will still float!

    On another note:

    Could be interesting to see a comparison of lifed saved by life jackets on planes, versus life lost, due to people inflating them before trying to leave the plane.

  34. If you’re in icy water, what good is a jacket going to do for you?

    Logan and LaGuardia are special cases — flights taking off of those runways should probably have jackets on-board, given that any botched takeoff from one of those runways will put the plane in the water.

    On the other hand, a life jacket in icy seas will buy you about five minutes before hypothermia sets in. The odds of being found and retrieved during that time are almost zero.

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