With the recent emergency evacuation of Red Air flight 203 at Miami International Airport, after the nose gear collapsed on landing, videos and images from the scene inside and outside the cabin clearly show passengers taking their luggage with them down the slides. Not only this but luggage was seen inside blocking the aisles and passengers were so busy filming the event on their smartphones that the actual seriousness of the aircraft being on fire seems to be completely forgotten.
A recurring issue
There have been numerous examples of this behavior in recent years, and it is clear that this is still a big issue for the airlines. Indeed, all safety demonstrations instruct that passengers should leave all items behind in case of an emergency evacuation and some airlines have made changes to the cabin crew commands in safety training, to reinforce this message.
Video footage from British Airways flight 276 in 2015, American Airlines flight 383 in 2016 and Emirates flight 521, also in 2016, clearly show passengers taking their luggage with them in the cabin and down the slides whilst the aircraft is on fire. Luckily in these accidents, all passengers and crew evacuated with no fatalities, only injuries, except in the case of Emirates where one firefighter was killed.
The worst case in recent years was Aeroflot flight 1492 in Moscow-Sheremetyevo in May 2019, where 41 out of 78 passengers and crew died when fire engulfed the rear cabin of the aircraft. Again, passengers were seen taking their baggage down the slides. The slowed evacuation (an evacuation should take less than 90 seconds – this one took six minutes) with the procedure impeded by passengers finding their baggage. This resulted in no survivors beyond row 10 – all perished including a crew member.
There are numerous accident reports on emergency evacuations where the passengers ignored cabin crew commands and some passengers have had their baggage taken off them at the door. Is it that we have become so materialistic that our possessions are more important than life itself? Or have we become so selfish, that only ourselves and our needs are important. Do airlines allow too much cabin baggage inside the aircraft or are passengers carrying more to avoid charges for hold baggage?
In 2018, the Royal Aeronautical Society published a paper titled ‘Emergency evacuation of commercial passenger aeroplanes.’ It identified many similar incidents and suggests that passengers are not influenced by the safety demonstration or the cabin crew. It recommended:
“Aviation authorities should consider the feasibility of introducing a certification requirement for a means of remotely locking, from the flight deck, overhead bins in passenger cabins that do not contain emergency equipment, for taxi, take-off and landing.”
Emergency evacuations take place when the situation is catastrophic and lives are in danger, so there should be no excuse in getting your belongings or taking videos or photos; every second is critical.The passenger should be accountable for their own safety as well as that of those around them and should not ignore the cabin crew commands and understand the seriousness of the situation.
Surely, if there is an emergency evacuation and the aircraft is on fire, the most important thing is to get out of the aircraft as quickly as possible? The slower the evacuation, the less chance of survival and taking baggage down the slide can cause injury to yourself and others and can also damage the slide, making it unusable to anyone after you.
Baggage at the end of the slide also becomes an obstruction and can hurt others trying to evacuate. Are those extra seconds trying to get your bag out of the locker really worth risking your life and the lives of people around you? That’s something to think about.