Reasons to Fold Tray Tables During Takeoff and Landing

Reasons to Fold Tray Tables During Takeoff and Landing

Tray tables, just like seatbacks, are standard features in every aircraft cabin, and folding them during takeoff and landing is a common practice. While it might seem inconvenient to stow your laptop or hold your phone in hand to watch a movie or show, there are safety reasons why tray tables need to be locked during these two phases of the flight.

According to David Doughty, CEO of Admiral Jet, a private jet company, aircraft can experience sudden movements like turbulence or even aborted takeoffs. If tray tables are left open and down, objects inside them can become projectiles and pose a threat.

“So, to prevent anything from becoming a hazard, it is crucial to store and lock tray tables in the upright position,” he says.

Even more importantly, tray tables need to be stowed to ensure that passengers’ movements are not obstructed. “In unlikely emergency situations, you should be able to quickly exit your seat and move out unimpeded by the tray table,” says flight attendant Steve Daniel, based in Montreal. “That’s also why we always ask you to ensure your bags are fully stored under the seat in front of you. It may seem like a small thing, but in critical situations, every second counts.”

Lowering the tray table can also prevent passengers from assuming the proper bracing position in forward-facing seats, as they typically need to lean forward in certain ways, as demonstrated in the safety pamphlet in the seatback pocket.

There are specific reasons why tray tables must be stowed during takeoff and landing, in particular. “Takeoff and landing are the two flight phases with the highest likelihood of unexpected events,” says former pilot Hans Mast, now working as a travel agent with Golden Rule Travel.

Ensuring Passenger Safety: Folding Tray Tables Explained

1. Preventing In-Flight Hazards

During takeoff and landing, aircraft are more vulnerable to sudden movements, which can include turbulence or aborted takeoffs. If tray tables are not secured, loose items such as laptops, books, or personal belongings can become dangerous projectiles in the event of unexpected movements or impact. To ensure the safety of all passengers, it is essential to fold and lock tray tables in their upright positions before the plane starts taxiing or preparing for landing.

2. Unobstructed Evacuation

In emergency situations, every second is critical for the safety of passengers and crew. When the tray tables are down, they can create obstacles and hinder the swift evacuation of passengers from their seats. Flight attendants instruct passengers to store their bags under the seats in front of them to ensure a clear path to the exit rows. Likewise, folding the tray tables up provides unobstructed access to the aisle, allowing passengers to quickly evacuate if necessary.

3. Proper Bracing Position

For passengers seated in forward-facing seats, adopting the correct bracing position during takeoff and landing is crucial. The tray table, when down, may prevent passengers from leaning forward adequately, which is a key element of the brace position. By raising the tray tables, passengers have the freedom to assume the recommended brace posture, enhancing their safety in case of an emergency.

4. Compliance with Safety Regulations

Airlines and aviation authorities strictly enforce safety regulations for passenger well-being. The requirement to fold and secure tray tables during takeoff and landing is part of these safety protocols. Passengers are expected to follow all safety instructions provided by the cabin crew as a vital aspect of ensuring a safe and secure flight experience.


Although it might seem like a minor inconvenience, folding and securing tray tables during takeoff and landing are essential safety measures. By doing so, passengers can help prevent in-flight hazards, ensure unobstructed evacuation paths, and facilitate proper bracing positions. Following these guidelines not only adheres to aviation safety regulations but also contributes to a safer and more secure flight for everyone on board. So, the next time you buckle up for a flight, remember to stow your tray table properly and keep safety a priority throughout your journey.

JC. Princen

“Success is best when it's shared.”

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