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When I sat down in my seat on my flight this morning, I noticed that my seat belt had an airbag installed.

This piqued my interest; the safety instruction card on the airplane indicates that the "brace position" is to either cross my arms on the seat in front of me (not possible in this case since I was in a bulkhead row) or to bend forward and fold my arms underneath my legs.

However, one would think that the presence of an airbag deploying from the general vicinity of one's waist would make this configuration impractical at best (and disastrous at worst).

Does the brace position change if one's seat belt has an airbag?

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up vote 6 down vote accepted

In short, no, the brace position does not change if your seat-belt has an airbag.

Seat-belt airbags are intended as an alternative protection in cases where the passenger is not in the brace position at time of a crash. The preferred option is still for the passenger to assume the brace position in the event that there is advanced warning of an impending potential incident.

From https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2008/05/20/E8-11297/special-conditions-amsafe-inc-various-transport-category-airplanes-inflatable-restraints :

Test data indicate that passengers in the brace position do not require supplemental protection, so that it will not be necessary to show that the AAIR will enhance the brace position. However, the inflatable seatbelt restraint must not introduce a hazard in that case by deploying into the seated, braced passenger.

I can't seem to find it at the moment, however there is a good video available that shows a seat-belt airbag deploying for a passenger that is already in the brace position. By design, the majority of the force/inflation occurs sideways in this case so the airbag basically deploys beside the person so as not to cause additional injury by forcing them out of the brace position.

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