When you’re travelling on an aircraft, there are a number of rules that help to keep you safe. Read more below about safety briefings, seat belts, portable electronic devices, and more.

Knowing what to do in an emergency can increase the chances of your survival.

The safety briefing and the safety information card provided near your seat give vital information on the location of exits and emergency equipment. As this can vary from one aircraft type to another, it’s important to pay attention to the safety briefing and read the safety card every time you fly.

You should check the location of your nearest emergency exit, which may be behind you (count the rows). Safety equipment will typically include life jackets, oxygen masks, seat belts/harnesses and floor lighting.

The safety briefing will generally include information on the use of portable electronic devices, storage of hand baggage, and the need for your seat to be in the upright position with the tray table stowed and window shade open during take-off and landing.

Your seat belt must be fastened whenever the "seat belt" sign is on. This includes during taxi, take-off, landing, turbulence, and whenever the captain has illuminated the “seat belt” sign. You must comply with all the lighted signs and instructions from your crew, so if the seat belt sign is illuminated, you must fasten your seat belt.

If the seat belt sign has been on for some time, and the conditions appear calm, you can call a flight attendant to check with them how long the seat belt sign will remain on. In some cases the crew member can call the captain to find out this information for you. When the seat belt sign is not illuminated, it’s still recommended to keep your seat belt fastened.

You should adjust your seat belt so that it is tight but comfortable, with the buckle the right way round so that it can be released easily. If you use a blanket, fasten the seat belt over the blanket so cabin crew can see that your seat belt is fastened. After landing, you must wait until the seat belt sign is turned off before unfastening.

Some airlines now allow passengers to use handheld electronic devices such as smartphones and small tablets during the entire duration of a flight. These airlines have conducted safety tests to ensure electronic gadgets do not adversely affect their aircraft. Given that not all aircraft are the same, it’s important that you always follow crew instructions.

All electronic devices must remain in flight mode when switched on, unless otherwise advised by cabin crew. The use of Bluetooth, such as for wireless headphones, and keyboards, is not permitted unless advised by the crew.

Passengers will always be instructed by cabin crew as to exactly what electronic devices can be used, and in what mode, at the beginning of a flight. If in any doubt, always check with a crew member before using a device.

Some airlines also publish details about travelling with portable electronic devices on their websites, as well as in their inflight magazines.

To learn more about the CAA’s approach to the regulation of portable electronic devices, see:

Portable electronic devices [PDF 186 KB]

New Zealand airlines don’t allow smoking onboard, therefore the ‘no smoking’ signs will remain on throughout the flight.

Passengers aren’t allowed to smoke in toilets, and these are fitted with smoke detectors. Tampering with an aircraft smoke detector is a serious offence and may lead to prosecution.

Some passengers may not be allowed to sit next to an emergency exit. This is to ensure that if the emergency exit is needed, the exit can be opened, and the aircraft evacuated, as quickly as possible.

Airlines have a right to refuse to carry passengers that they consider to be a potential risk to the safety of the aircraft, its crew, or its passengers. Reasons could include if the passenger:

  • is under the influence of drugs or alcohol;
  • has refused to allow a security check to be carried out on them or their baggage;
  • has not obeyed the instructions of ground staff or a member of the crew relating to safety or security;
  • has used threatening, abusive or insulting words towards ground staff, another passenger or a member of the crew;
  • has behaved in a threatening, abusive, insulting or disorderly way towards a member of ground staff or a member of the crew of the aircraft;
  • has deliberately interfered with the performance by a member of the crew of the aircraft in carrying out their duties;
  • has put the safety of either the aircraft or any person in it in danger;
  • is in a mental or physical state of health where they pose a danger or risk to themselves, the aircraft, or any person in it.

Certain passenger behaviours are not acceptable or permitted while on board an aircraft, including:

  • endangering the safety of an aircraft
  • being drunk in an aircraft
  • smoking
  • disobeying a command from the captain of an aircraft, and
  • acting in a disruptive manner (including interfering with the work of a member of the crew).

If a member of the crew deems behaviour disruptive, they have the right to take measures they think reasonable to prevent the passenger from continuing that behaviour. When the aircraft lands, their actions may include:

  • making the passenger leave the aircraft, possibly under police escort
  • refusing to carry the passenger on the remaining sectors of the journey shown on their ticket, and
  • reporting the incident on board the aircraft to the relevant authorities with a view to prosecuting them for any criminal offences that may have been committed.

Serious offences could result in a large fine or imprisonment.

Please check with your airline for their rules about carry-on baggage. The weight and size allowance is to be strictly adhered to as aircraft overhead lockers are restricted in the weight and capacity they can carry. This is also for the wellbeing of passengers and crew.

See also Avsec information for travellers – items in carry-on baggage

If you're travelling with children, see our information about child restraints.

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