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It's very easy for a passenger to walk away with a life jacket. What do airlines do in general to ensure that there is a life jacket available for each passenger? Do they check it manually as part of pre-flight check up?

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    $\begingroup$ It's been quite a while since I last flew internationally, but US domestic flights use the seat cushion as a "flotation device". I'm not sure how easy it would be to walk off the plane with a seat cushion tucked under your arm without being noticed, and it would be pretty obvious to cabin & cleaning crews that one was missing afterward. $\endgroup$ – FreeMan Aug 2 '16 at 12:42
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    $\begingroup$ I'm specifically asking about life jackets and not seat cushions, which you have rightly pointed, is difficult for a passenger to walk away with. $\endgroup$ – Firee Aug 2 '16 at 13:10
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    $\begingroup$ Difficult ? Just put it in your suitcase! $\endgroup$ – Antzi Aug 2 '16 at 16:50
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    $\begingroup$ I always feel for it under my seat during the safety briefing. If it was missing, I would bring it to the attention of the cabin crew. $\endgroup$ – Simon Aug 2 '16 at 18:58
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    $\begingroup$ Possible duplicate of Is there any regulation to ensure that life jackets and safety cards are on-board? $\endgroup$ – vasin1987 Aug 6 '16 at 19:16
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It's essentially a manual check for many airlines, performed as part of the pre-flight checks.

However, the airline I have worked for recently upgraded from manual checks to RFID tags on each lifejacket (a sticky tag kind of like this). The RFID tags can be read from the aisle by a handheld reader. So the person who does the checks simply walks down the aisle with the reader and is able to tell if a seat is missing a jacket and also if the jacket needs to be replaced due to the expiry date fast approaching.

In addition to a tag on the actual life jacket there are also security RFID tags across the life jacket holster under the seat. So the scanner is able to tell if the life jacket has been tampered with as the security tag would have been broken.

As for the frequency of checks, different regions have different requirements. Usually life jackets are only needed at all if flying over a large body of water. I believe the USA requires a check before any flight which passes over the USA (as well as water). Europe requires less frequent checks.

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  • $\begingroup$ I'm not quite sure life jacket is compulsory for each flight. Of course it is for flight passing over an ocean, but not necessarily all other flights. Thus, checks may not be needed before any flight which passes over the USA. $\endgroup$ – Manu H Aug 3 '16 at 15:16
  • $\begingroup$ True, I overlooked that. I've updated my answer. Thanks. $\endgroup$ – Chro Aug 4 '16 at 9:16
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Yes. It is part of the pre-flight check of the cabin crew to check for the availability of life jacket under each seat.

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    $\begingroup$ But do they actually check? Or is it just part of the procedure and a tick-box? $\endgroup$ – Richard Aug 3 '16 at 18:16
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    $\begingroup$ @Richard I've never met a pilot / flight crew who didn't perform pre-flight "to the T" before every flight. I'm sure there are some, but the consequences of "just ticking the box" are literally life-and-death for almost every tick-box. $\endgroup$ – Dan Aug 3 '16 at 20:17
  • $\begingroup$ @Dan - A quick google would suggest that it's relatively common to find one missing. $\endgroup$ – Richard Aug 3 '16 at 20:32
  • $\begingroup$ @Richard as I said in my answer not every region (e.g. Europe) requires a life jacket check for every single flight but rather, say, once a week (or less frequent). I guess this is due to the large amount of time needed to do a thorough check. Therefore if some numbnut takes one as a souvenir it might not be caught until later. $\endgroup$ – Chro Aug 4 '16 at 9:18

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