It seems everytime there is an incident with an emergency evacuation the media focus points to all the passengers who have managed to disembark a burning aircraft towing behind their luggage. While there are no firm laws against this practise it is against the law not to follow the instructions of the flight crew so simply put once they state to leave your bags behind and get off the plane you are required to follow this instruction.
There has been many ideas put forward by the aviation community from locking down the overhead bins to heavy fines etc. The reality is, in these situations panic often takes over from peoples rational behaviour and part of the panic is to save your stuff.
Sadly the reality is in severe cases there can be as little as 1-2 minutes to evacuate hundreds of people off a burning plane (in fact the industry expectation is a full evacuation in 90 seconds) and every moment delayed searching for bags can mean life or death for yourself or someone waiting behind you. It seems lucky that in the last couple of years while the media has been playing out the selfishness of these passengers we have been fortunate to see no fatalities as a direct result of it.
The Flip Side
The other side of the argument here is “what about my stuff?”. Well remember, if you die as a result of trying to rescue your laptop or jacket or whatever else, it’s probably not going to be much benefit to you in the afterlife.
I have often thought about this myself, as someone who has medications I rely on for my survival and with the thought of huge difficulties getting them overseas especially after an emergency I always board a plane prepared with a small shoulder satchel which holds my important documents, money and medications so in a worse case scenario I do not have to go looking for a bag, it is attached to me in a way which will not inhibit my free movement through a burning cabin.
It would be a scary thought to be in a foreign country with your passport burning in a plane. What happens? Will you be given a nice hotel room to wait in while everything is sorted out or will you be treated like an illegal alien by the host country? What’s more horrifying is, what if you have no money? What will you do? What about your family? Food? Transport? Calling back home?
This is why I always carry my satchel to ensure I have protected myself and my interests as best I can.
Everything else I carry can be replaced and it’s loss is not at the forefront of my mind. Photos of my family and friends are stored in the cloud, losing the laptop will not be the end of the world. My travel insurance will cover the cost of a new one and replace the rest of my stuff.
Sadly in these situations it is common for people to try and regain control of their situation and that’s where people become unstuck. It is easy to blame people for making stupid decisions but in a life or death situation people’s judgement is more often than not clouded and there is no time to sit and assess the situation you are in.
Life is too precious to throw it away for some clicks on Twitter or to rescue your car keys. Put your phone away, stop recording, do not open the overhead bins. Do as instructed by the crew immediately to maximise your chance of survival and minimise your chance of being the cause of someone else’s demise.
Watch actual footage of evacuations and things can escalate in seconds from bad to much worse. There is no time to waste getting away.
Following recent incidents highlighting how many passengers have risked lives to retrieve their possessions is only opening the topic up to more scrutiny. Aviation authorities and airlines alike are looking for solutions here. These may involve locked overhead bins or massive fines or even imprisonment for ignoring crew instructions especially if someone ends up being hurt or worse.
Prepare yourself for disaster even though there’s a minute chance of ever facing it.
Your Emergency Kit
Like my satchel bag. Pack yourself an emergency kit and keep it with you while in flight (take off and landing).
The kit should have your passports, medications, cash, copy of your travel insurance and your phone.
Your kit should only be big enough to hold the essentials, not inhibit your movement in a cramped cabin and not be likely to hurt anyone else or damage the slide on your way out of the plane.