Children don't need to breathe apparently
September 15, 2011 2:34 PM   Subscribe

How many oxygen masks drop on an airplane? Is it one for every seat or are there extras?

I can't believe I'm wasting a question on this one but I wonder about it every time I fly*. Having (thankfully) never been in a plane where the oxygen masks drop I don't know for myself.

Babies are allowed to fly on the parents' laps up to a certain age so if there is only one oxygen mask per seat ... those babies are just SOL?

*Ok, I wonder about it every time I fly with my dog because you bet your shit that if something happened during the flight and there was a loss of oxygen I want to pull my dog out and hook him up to a mask too.
posted by magnetsphere to Travel & Transportation (18 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: On the 3-3 planes (3 seats, aisle, 3 seats), there are 4 masks for every batch of 3 seats. I don't know about the other plane arrangements though.
posted by brainmouse at 2:37 PM on September 15, 2011

Best answer: Usually there's only one extra mask per set of seats: Usually there are four masks in the overhead console above three seats. In some cases there will only be three, but lap children are not supposed to be seated in those rows.

My family has the potential to run into this restriction: my wife and I have three children, two of which are small enough to be on our laps. We can't all sit in a set of three seats because there won't be enough masks.
posted by zsazsa at 2:40 PM on September 15, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks! I'll try to avoid rows with lap kids just for peace of mind. :o)
posted by magnetsphere at 2:42 PM on September 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Thank you, magnetsphere, for asking this question that I was also wondering about!

And now an add-on question: don't you also wonder about whether an oxygen mask would actually WORK on a dog? I mean, could the dog wear it and actually get oxygen?
posted by medusa at 2:44 PM on September 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

On the Southwest Airlines pet page they say "in the event of an emergency, an oxygen mask may not be available for the cat or dog." That would indicate to me that the mask would work for an animal if one were available.
posted by blurker at 2:49 PM on September 15, 2011

I was on a plane once, years ago, when the oxygen masks dropped accidentally. There were four on my row.

The pilot came on over the intercom and said, "sorry, folks! Pushed the wrong button up here! har har har. Nothing to worry about!" (I assume he was joking about the button.)
posted by phunniemee at 2:50 PM on September 15, 2011 [2 favorites]

Yep, a dog will benefit from the mask, same as a person. Dogs (and babies) may not tolerate the mask attached to their faces, but the mask may be placed as close to the nose and mouth as possible and they will get oxygen.
posted by kamikazegopher at 2:52 PM on September 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

and if there aren't enough masks, I expect you can do the equivalent of the buddy-breathing that divers do, giving yourself a breath or two, then put the mask on the kid for a couple of breaths and back and forth.
posted by rmd1023 at 3:01 PM on September 15, 2011

I was on a plane once, years ago, when the oxygen masks dropped accidentally. There were four on my row.

How many seats were in the row?
posted by John Cohen at 3:07 PM on September 15, 2011

We have twins. Back when they were free to fly with we had to sit not only in different rows, but different aisles (these were on 2-2 and 3-3 planes from both Southwest and Horizon/Alaska).

Annoying enough that we just ended up buying a ticket for the (thankfully) unnecessary oxygen mask.
posted by togdon at 3:09 PM on September 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I intend to force him to wear it. If he won't wear it himself, I'll hold it there, he WILL freaking wear it. They aren't air tight or anything so as long as the oxygen coming out of the mask is close enough to his nose/mouth it should work for him.
posted by magnetsphere at 3:10 PM on September 15, 2011 [2 favorites]

How many seats were in the row?

Oh yeah, I guess that's material information. Standard coach seats, three to a row.
posted by phunniemee at 3:17 PM on September 15, 2011

When I've flown with a lap infant, the flight attendants have often kindly changed my seat, and grumbled about whoever does the seat assignments not considering the oxygen masks. I'm sure it differs from plane to plane, but a couple of times I was told that only the right side of the plane had a fourth mask in a 3x3 setup.
posted by Joh at 3:58 PM on September 15, 2011

I wouldn't worry about it too much. In the extremely unlikely event that the masks drop for good cause and the plane is still flyable, the pilots are trained to get down to lower altitude ASAP. Your dog might pass out without extra oxygen, but he should revive after the descent.

If there is only one mask available, you could try sharing the mask with your dog by taking turns and hoping your seatmate helps you out, by sticking the mask back on your face, if you mess up and pass out.

The odds of this being an actual problem are exceedingly remote, less than being hit by lightning I'm sure. There are more than 70,000 flights in the US each day but in the past 25 years I am only aware of three flights in the US where the masks were useful. This is the sort of thing that makes the news.
posted by exogenous at 6:30 PM on September 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Though rare in an absolute sense, the statistics on oxygen mask deployments is really really far from 3-in-25-years. Search on the aviation herald for masks released and you'll find that loss of cabin pressure is one of the more common types of incidents that occur on aircraft.

(Obligatory warning: if you have fears of flying, do not read the aviation herald.)
posted by kiltedtaco at 6:53 PM on September 15, 2011

This is all very reassuring to me. I've been flying for many years, but had never thought about the number of oxygen masks until earlier this year when a flight attendant mentioned during the safety presentation that there were "four masks per row." This was on a 3+3 narrowbody, and I seriously thought she meant four for every six seats.

I tried to be subtle when sizing up my neighbors to estimate reaction time and grab strength afterwards.
posted by AkzidenzGrotesk at 7:45 PM on September 15, 2011

Now I'm seriously considering taking a diving class, so I can practice buddy breathing, in case I ever need to share oxygen on an airplane with my dog. Awesome.
posted by medusa at 8:17 PM on September 15, 2011

Response by poster: I'm glad I'm not the only one Medusa :)

I have no real fear of flying and I know the pilots get the plane down super asap in those situations but when I fly with my dog my anxiety levels rise (I can only imagine this will be worse with real children) so thank you all for reassuring me.
posted by magnetsphere at 8:45 PM on September 15, 2011

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