In an attempt to cut as much weight as possible from their aircraft, Jazz Airlines, a subsidiary of Air Canada, recently decided to pull all life vests from their aircraft. Now, in the unlikely event of a water landing, passengers will be advised to use their floating seat cushions for buoyancy.
Will this affect the safety of the passengers? Well, purely from the flotation standpoint, life vests have an advantage in that they don’t need to be held onto, which can be tough to do when you’re in ice-cold Canadian water. They also help the passenger’s body face upward, out of the water versus the opposite position that holding a seat cushion would require (an article on TheStar has better diagrams). But government regulators don’t require one or the other.
How much do these life vests weigh? About a half kilogram. For the seventy five people that might be on this Jazz aircraft, that’s a total of thirty-eight kilograms or about eighty three pounds per flight.
It seems to me that there’s enough swing in the passenger and luggage loads such that the weight shouldn’t make much of a difference. Suppose a men’s rugby club books a dozen tickets instead of a middle school girl’s gymnastics team. Each one of those guys could weigh three times as much as the girl. What do you do about that?
Sure, many domestic airlines no longer have life vests, but for the eighty pounds of weight saved, is it really worth the drama and customer disgust?