Some airlines are enforcing an F.A.A. rule that prohibits personal items from being stowed in the seatback pockets, The New York Times reported earlier this week. But this rule has been on the books for more than 10 years.

F.A.A. bulletin 98-28, which took effect on August 13, 1998, states:
“In addition, nothing can be stowed in the seat pockets except magazines and passenger information cards. It is not a good safety practice to stow meals, either brought onto the airplane by passengers or served by the air carrier, in seat back pockets.”
And there is anecdotal evidence of Amazon’s Kindle being banned from the seat pocket.
What if I stow my G1 phone deep into the abyss of the seat pocket, and no one knows it’s there? What if the passenger next to me slipped a fancy metal pen into the seat pocket in front of him, and it flew out and hit my right eye during a severe turbulence? Well, so can a lot of loose items around the cabin.
The F.A.A. hasn’t explained its motive behind this strange and arcane rule. The Times shows that a spokesman for the agency didn’t initially know much, if at all, about the rule. The paper also notes that airline executives are guessing that check-in luggage limit might be forcing passengers to stuff more baggage into the seat pockets.
There may be another reason. The F.A.A. is acting in concert with the airlines to make the seats appear roomier than they actually are. A combination of obese passengers and bulging seat pockets would make the seats look tiny.