Last updated: 01:00 AM ET, Tue August 09 2016

Why You Should Never Grab Your Bags During An Airplane Evacuation

Features & Advice | Paul Thompson | August 09, 2016

Why You Should Never Grab Your Bags During An Airplane Evacuation

Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

Air travel is as safe as it has ever been, and thankfully, major incidents have been few and far between in recent years. But when the unthinkable does happen, it’s crucial to follow the instructions of your flight crew, and here’s why.

“LEAVE EVERYTHING BEHIND!” This is one of the things you’ll hear flight attendants shouting repeatedly during an evacuation. 97 percent of all aircraft incidents are survivable, but your actions and those of your fellow passengers are a big factor in whether everyone makes it out alive.

The recent large aircraft evacuations such as Asiana 214 in San Francisco, British Airways 2276 in Las Vegas, and even last week’s crash-landing of Emirates 521 in Dubai all have one thing in common — after or during each evacuation, passengers were photographed or videoed in possession of large carryon items, including suitcases.

Allow me to explain why this is a big deal. Federal aircraft evacuation guidelines state that in order for a plane to be certified for commercial service, the full plane must be able to be evacuated within 90 seconds. These tests are performed in a controlled environment, in a hangar, with volunteers who are expecting the event. Now imagine what happens during a real-life event.

READ MORE: What to Do When Your Vacation Becomes an Evacuation

In a real evacuation event, people are screaming, frantic and pushing to make their way to the nearest exit. Exits may be blocked, there may be a fire, and the plane may even be upside down.

It’s not only an incredibly selfish act to retrieve your personal belongings, it’s also a felony here in the United States. Interference with a flight crew member performing his/her duties or failure to follow their instructions carries a fine of up to $25,000. I hope the offenders in each of these incidents were appropriately charged.

Why can’t you take your stuff? Because it slows down the evacuation process. If you’re standing up in the aisle, opening the bin and reaching for your roller bag, you are blocking the aisle and impeding your fellow passengers from exiting. I’ll tell you right now, if you block the aisle like that on my flight in an emergency, you’re probably getting an elbow to the gut and shoved out of the way. My life is more important than whatever is in your bag. Clothes are replaceable. People are not.

When evacuating the plane, you also need your hands free to stabilize yourself on the steep inflatable slide. You can’t go that while holding bulky items in your arms. You’ve seen how tiny the over-wing emergency exits are, right? There is no extra time for you to wrangle your bag through that opening along with your body.

Simply put, don’t be that guy. Slowing down the evacuation can lead to the deaths of your fellow passengers and flight crew members. If you’re fortunate enough to survive a plane crash or evacuation, you want everyone else on the plane to be safe along with yourself. 


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