You might be amazed at how many people actually pay attention to the fasten seatbelt sign, or the passenger announcements that we make for that matter. Granted, on some aircrafts, I do agree that it is a little difficult to see whether or not the fasten seat belt sign is still illuminated. Even I, personally, sometimes disregard the sign. However, when it is on, you should definitely remain seated. And even if it is off, we often suggest that you still continue to have your seatbelt fasten while you are seated in case unexpected rough air happens.
Unexpected rough air was exactly what we encountered on one of my flights. We were on a smaller aircraft, started our service after we reached a safe altitude and the fasten seat belt sign was turned off. In the middle of our service, we probably were around the area of the tenth row. The aircraft hit what the pilot calls an air pocket, causing the plane to drop and shake just like if we were in extreme turbulence.
Since we were in the middle of our service, we had the carts in the middle of the aisle. These are heavy carts, but with the sudden drop, they flew up higher than where the armrests are. We, of course, tried to level ourselves, sit down in the nearest place we could find, and try to hold onto the cart at the same time. The whole ordeal didn’t last very long, and everything settled down as quickly as it had started.
Luckily, we didn’t have any passengers hurt or injured. Aside from our supplies, cups, and miscellaneous stuff that fell all over the place, everything else was fine. The captain came over the PA and explained to us what happened, he said we just happened to fall into another aircraft’s air pocket. An air pocket, he said, is a current that causes the aircraft to lose altitude abruptly.
After that incident, I make sure I tell people to try to keep your seatbelt on even if the sign is not on. You never know when unexpectedly turbulence will hit or sudden drops may occur. You don’t have to be overly alarmed though, air travel is still considered one of the safest mode of transportation. Just make sure you don’t overlook the fasten seat belt sign! =)