Monday, August 25, 2008

Air Canada shaves more weight from Jazz flights.

And they've done it at the expense of your safety.
The race by airlines to shave weight and save fuel is now reaching safety equipment.

Jazz airlines, Air Canada's regional affiliate, recently removed life vests from all of its planes – including those that fly over water – to reduce fuel consumption and save money.

Transport Canada regulations allow carriers that fly within 50 nautical miles of shore to use flotation devices instead of vests. Safety cards in seat pockets will now direct passengers to use the seat cushions, which float.

Air Canada Jazz will still be flying over open water, and in case you haven't experienced it, 50 miles is a long way from land.

Jazz planes criss-cross Canada and the U.S., flying over the Great Lakes and up the Eastern seaboard from Halifax to Boston and New York.

"We operate within Transport Canada regulations and in this case we're within their regulations for operations over water," says Jazz spokesperson Debra Williams. A number of east coast routes were adjusted to bring them within the 50-mile boundary.

They also fly over the Strait of Georgia between Vancouver Island and the BC mainland.

Take a look at that seat card (click it to expand). Do you see the obvious problem? Imagine yourself surviving an in-water air crash but with one broken arm, or a dislocated shoulder, or a snapped wrist. You couldn't possibly hang on to a seat cushion, even if you could get it off the seat. Never mind what would happen if you had two broken arms.

Unconscious survivors? Totally hooped. You're going to die, even if someone straps you to one of these cushions. The design of inflatable life vests is such that it will roll you out of a face-in-the-water attitude within five seconds and then support your head while keeping your face out of the water. The graphic presentation on the seat card has the survivor backwards from where he should be to prevent drowning and unable to assume a heat escapement loss prevention posture. In other words, when a survivor needs every possible calorie of heat retained to slow the effects of hypothermia, Jazz has just eliminated one small advantage... to save money.

It's not just fuel they're saving either. Inflatable life vests are not cheap, so, while you may never hear about it, someone at some board meeting will be announcing a savings to the company in passenger safety equipment.

In a water ingress emergency passengers (and crew) suffer from water immersion shock upon entering the water. For several minutes a person entering cold water has limited control over their ability to move and react. Grasping a seat cushion would be struggle in the Strait of Georgia or the Gulf of St. Lawrence for the first five minutes after entering the water. That's enough time to drown. Given the position of the survivor on this cushion, if the weather is rough and the water has any significant chop, the survivor will likely drown.

Shall we discuss the problem of small children and infants? Nah. They're dead.

So there you are. Jazz's attempts to shave costs at the expense of passenger safety gives a whole new meaning to "bums in seats".

Hat tip Cheryl.

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