American Airlines and United Airlines, the nation's top two carriers, said Monday they will soon make passengers wear seat belts throughout their journeys to protect them from unexpected air turbulence.
Starting this summer, the airlines will require passengers to buckle up when seated, even when the weather is clear and travelers might least expect a bumpy ride.
"Where we get people hurt the most is in clear-air turbulence, where it looks great outside but you don't know what the air is doing and, boom, suddenly the plane drops or rises and people get hurt," said John Hotard, American Airlines spokesman.
Both airlines said the starting date and details, including how to enforce the rule, still had to be worked out. Other airlines were expected to establish similar rules.
When the seat belt lights on the aircraft go off, passengers will be told they can loosen their belts but should still keep them buckled while they are in their seats.
The Federal Aviation Administration estimates about 58 airline passengers in the United States are injured every year by turbulence, and that most of those are hurt because they are not wearing their seat belts.