We work as flight attendants on a 737-400. We were taught that we must have one FA per 50 seats. Normally our planes have 150 seats and with three FAs we have no issues.

Recently the seat configuration was 152 seats. We called our company and told them that we were not legal to work like that since there were only 3 of us. They stated that 2 seats were for "crew rest" and that we were legal as long as we didn't seat passengers in those 2 particular seats. Is this correct? No one ever said anything said to us about these crew rest seats.

  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to aviation.SE! This question is related but doesn't address the crew rest seats point. $\endgroup$
    – Pondlife
    May 14, 2019 at 2:09
  • $\begingroup$ How many seats on the airplane are proffered to passengers (i.e. have a seat number that is conceivably issuable on a ticket). $\endgroup$ May 14, 2019 at 17:03

3 Answers 3


The applicable regulation, CFR121.391, says this:

(4) For airplanes having a seating capacity of more than 100 passengers—two flight attendants plus one additional flight attendant for each unit (or part of a unit) of 50 passenger seats above a seating capacity of 100 passengers.

Note that the regulation only refers to seating capacity, not whether or not the occupants are "passengers" under the legal definition (fare paying person), or airline employees. With 152 seats, that airplane has 2 seats, a part unit, of the next "50 seat unit" above 150 seats. So I would say your concern is correct and you need an extra FA to be compliant with 121.391, or at least I would assume so until the airline is able to show that the seats are not counted as "passenger capacity" due to some language in its operating certificate or some other document. Probably something for your union's legal rep to confirm.

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ indeed, deadheading crew count as passengers for the FA's primary mission: safety. $\endgroup$
    – jwenting
    May 14, 2019 at 4:15
  • 11
    $\begingroup$ But it says "passenger seats" and these are crew seats. $\endgroup$ May 14, 2019 at 10:09
  • $\begingroup$ I would say if the seats are in a zone placarded "crew rest area", or are outside of the cabin area pax normally sit, yes they can be designated crew seats. But if they are just two extras in the main cabin, that's a problem. If passengers COULD be sitting there, the seats have to be considered part of the passenger capacity. $\endgroup$
    – John K
    May 14, 2019 at 12:23
  • $\begingroup$ This is probably a dumb question, from a non-aviator, but would the pilot seat(s) be considered a passenger seat as well? Or is there specific language reserved for pilots? Would that same language cover crew seats? $\endgroup$
    – RToyo
    May 14, 2019 at 13:20
  • $\begingroup$ No crew seats are crew seats. A passenger is a legally defined entity (fare payer) and can't legally sit in a crew seat. And in fact airlines separate crew from passengers in the weight and balance calculations. Crew are "built-in" you might say, to what is called "Basic Operating Weight", which is empty weight plus standard crew. $\endgroup$
    – John K
    May 14, 2019 at 13:30

I have heard this happening in other airlines, so I presume its legal. If the seats are placarded "crew use only", the passenger capacity of the aircraft is considered to be reduced.

  • $\begingroup$ Yes good point. $\endgroup$
    – John K
    May 14, 2019 at 12:24
  • $\begingroup$ So if a 150-seat aircraft is only 60% booked, can the airline placard 50 seats as crew use only and reduce the number of FAs by one? $\endgroup$
    – Mike Scott
    May 14, 2019 at 19:42
  • $\begingroup$ @MikeScott If you did that the regulator would likely complain. However in this case, they're medium-term disabling 2 seats. If the regulator were to complain, they'd just physically remove the seats and the net effect, in terms of safety, would be identical. These things are often up to the judgement of the regulators. $\endgroup$
    – user71659
    May 14, 2019 at 19:47

The seating capacity as written in the registration document is all that matters.

There can be more seats installed, but the aircraft is not legally permitted to carry more passengers. Aircraft are often registered with lower seating capacity, MTOW or ETOPS than certified to reduce crew/maintenance requirements and airport fees. A web search for the tail number will likely tell you the registered seating capacity and MTOW.

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    $\begingroup$ What's your source for these claims? $\endgroup$ May 14, 2019 at 15:51

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