The Flying Pinto did some thorough digging, and got some guidance about the policy for airlines by the FAA, but it wasn't until just recently that we would have a more defined guideline on the info about what can or can not be placed in that seat back pocket.
Here is clarification on Seat back pocket for everyone to better understand.
U.S. Department of Transportation
Federal Aviation Administration
InFO Information for Operators
Flight Standards Service
An InFO contains valuable information for (clip)... impact on safety.
Subject: Stowage of Items in Seat Pockets
Purpose: To clarify guidance for air carriers about the stowage of items in seat pockets.
Discussion: Existing Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) policy in FAA Order 8900.1, Volume 3, Chapter 33, Section 6, part 3-3547. CARRY-ON BAGGAGE, Section F #5, Operations—Cabin Safety, states that carry-on baggage programs should...
Define properly stowed, to include overhead bin stowage and under seat stowage. For proper under seat stowage of carry-on baggage, there must be forward and side restraints to prevent bags from sliding into the aisle.
Prohibit the stowage of carry-on baggage and other items in the lavatories and seat back pockets (the only items allowed in seat back pockets should be magazines and passenger information cards)...
The intent of the carry-on baggage regulation, [I]Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) part 121, § 121.589, is to prevent carry-on items from slowing an emergency evacuation and to prevent injury to passengers by ensuring items are properly restrained. Seat pockets have been designed to restrain approximately 3 pounds of weight and not the weight of additional carry-on items. Seat pockets are not listed in the regulation as an approved stowage location for carry-on baggage. If a seat pocket fails to restrain its contents, the contents of the seat pocket may impede emergency evacuation or may strike and injure a passenger.
If small, lightweight items, such as eyeglasses or a cell phone, can be placed in the seat pocket without exceeding the total designed weight limitation of the seat pocket or so that the seat pocket does not block anyone from evacuating the row of seats, it may be safe to do so.
The requirements of the carry-on baggage regulation are applicable to take-off and landing. Nothing in the carry-on baggage regulation prohibits a passenger from taking out small personal items from an approved stowage location and placing them in the seat pocket after takeoff and stowing them in approved locations prior to landing. Crewmembers may still direct a passenger to stow carry-on items in an approved stowage location, during flight should they pose a hazard, such as in the case of turbulence.Hopefully this helps in some of the confusion that many of us had previously. I know that some airlines are more strict on this policy than others, as well as some flight attendants being more strict than others, however, this is the official guidance made just this month on what can, or can't, be placed in seat back pockets.
Happy flying and btw, don't put your laptop in the seat back pockets!