When did airlines start using seat belts on passenger flights?


3 Answers 3


The world's first airline used Zeppelins, and there was no need for seatbelts.

In WW I seatbelts were standard issue for pilots, at least in Germany.

After the war, the airlines used seatbelts irregularly. Below are two pictures of the cabin of the Junkers F-13, the first all-metal passenger aircraft, which was first operated in 1919.

Junkers F-13 cabin, front view

Junkers F-13 cabin, front view (picture source)

Junkers F-13 cabin, rear view

Junkers F-13 cabin, rear view (picture source)

While the belts on the front seats are clearly visible, the rear seats seem not to have them. If the picture date (Oct. 10, 1919) is to be trusted, they were used right from the start in 1919. The way they are fixed to the wicker seats, however, looks rather flimsy and will not give much protection in a crash.

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    $\begingroup$ I would guess that the original purpose of seatbelts was (and I think the primary purpose still is) not crash protection, but to keep people in their seats during turbulence. $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Commented Jul 2, 2017 at 18:15
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @jamesqf Agreed! $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 2, 2017 at 19:00
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    $\begingroup$ these appear to have been retrofitted rather than fitted as standard. $\endgroup$
    – jwenting
    Commented Jul 3, 2017 at 11:27
  • $\begingroup$ @jwenting: Still, look at the date and the use. Also, the soft cover is from the same material as the upholstery. I'm sure not every airline insisted on them - in race cars some drivers preferred not to be buckled in until the Sixties, thinking they would have a higher chance of survival when thrown from the car. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 3, 2017 at 17:14
  • $\begingroup$ @PeterKämpf those appear to be sleeves fitted around the belts rather than the belts themselves. But yes, it's possible they came with the seats $\endgroup$
    – jwenting
    Commented Jul 4, 2017 at 6:00

I've found photos of Fokker F.IXs from the late 1920s with seatbelts for the passenger seats. enter image description here .

The earlier F.VII from 1924 does not appear to have had seat belts. This more or less frames the introduction of seat belts in airliners in the late 1920s, as Fokker was a leading and innovative airliner manufacturer in those days.

Of course it is always possible that some aircraft were retrofitted even earlier, but this seems to set the start of including them as standard.


Benjamin Foulois (a United States Army general) is credited with inventing the first seat belt on an aircraft in 1910 (Wilbur and Orville: A Biography of the Wright Brothers).

[He] equipped the S.C. No. 1 with the first seat belt, using a four-foot leather cinch obtained from the cavalry saddlery (Wikipedia).

By 1940, seat belts on "transport liners" were common (Flying Magazine, Aug 1940).

enter image description here


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