How can the airlines stop this?

Seemingly every time there’s an incident involving an aircraft, images emerge of people fleeing the stricken airliner complete with hand baggage. 

The recent British Airways incident in Valencia once more saw people evacuating the aircraft with their cabin baggage. But the question is, what can be done to stop this?  

I’ve been on flights before where during the safety demo, the crew have made a point of really emphasising that people should leave their bags behind in the event of an emergency. All well and good. But the issue there is from observing others, I’d say around 90% of the passengers aren’t paying a blind bit of attention to the safety demo. Reading the newspaper or playing Candy Crush is far more important. Plus, it won’t happen to us, right?

The issue isn’t just a case (if you excuse the pun) of the evacuation being slowed down either. Imagine a hard shell roller case barreling down the emergency slide. All it takes is for someone to be a little slow away at the bottom and they’ve got potentially a serious injury.

A Manafacturer issue?

Maybe the aircraft manufacturers should be investigating ways to discourage this? But what can be done? Locking overheads when an emergency is declared? Well, maybe. But if someone is that determined to get their personal belongings then surely they won’t give up until they have what they’re after. Therefore this will slow down an evacuation further. Other than that, what other options are there?

The problem comes back to the airline. An Air France Airbus A340 was evacuated in Toronto in 90 seconds back in 2005. All passengers and crew survived. I was going to make the point that you didn’t see people with their bags on that occasion. This Tweet proves me wrong however:

Once more, there’s at least two people with their carry on bags staring at the plane as it’s burning.

Maybe it is an airline issue?

The point I was originally going to make was that the airlines have brought the issue on themselves somewhat. By charging extra to check luggage into the hold, people are less likely to do so. Instead they bring everything into the cabin with them. In the case of an emergency, if the luggage is out of sight and out of mind, likely most people would just leave. If they know their worldly belongings were just above their seat, the temptation to just grab it on the way out is certainly there.

Obviously, banning all carry on luggage is a bit extreme and not practical. But only allowing smaller less important items into the cabin could possibly go someway to deter people? Even if it doesn’t. removing overhead lockers and making everyone store their small bags at their feet would at least speed any evacuation up if people do grab their bag on the way out.

When a British Airways Boeing 777 caught fire in Las Vegas back in 2015, the number of people seen after evacuation with their cabin baggage made the headlines:

Time to prosecute people for it?

Shortly after the Valencia incident, a petition appeared online calling for people who are caught taking luggage with them in an emergency to be prosecuted.

Ok, well yes that could be a good deterrent. I doubt it will work though. Using a mobile phone whilst driving in the UK has been illegal for many years now in the UK. Yet how many people do you still see doing it? Not only that. If they have already taken their bag with them in an emergency, isn’t it a bit late by that point? Although I guess it will stop them doing it again…

It’s all well and good me (and many other for that matter) being sat behind the keyboard saying what people should and shouldn’t be doing. However, one thing we need to remember is that during these situations a lot of panic will no doubt be going on. Despite being told many times not to stop for your baggage many times over, I’d imagine all that will go out of the window when you’re in that situation. Look out for number one will kick in. “Get the bags and get off” will be the mentality.

Prevention rather than education

Again, having never been in this situation personally, it’s impossible for me to say how people do react in such situations. But I’d imagine thinking about things rationally, most people would just leave the plane asap. The poll in the Metro article linked above says as much. But again, people who do unfortunately find themselves in this situation aren’t thinking rationally at all. How can they be? One minute they’re going on holiday, the next they’re in a potentially life or death situation.

That’s what needs to be looked at when trying to prevent this issue. It’s all well and good telling people over and over. But when it comes down to it, all that will likely be forgotten. People have been shoved from a relaxing situation to sheer panic very quickly.

To conclude, I personally don’t know what the answer to this ever growing problem is. If I did, then I’d be on my way to earning an awful lot of money no doubt.

It is an issue that needs to be addressed pretty quickly though. People stopping to collect their cabin baggage is thought to have hindered others safely evacuating when an Aeroflot SSJ crashed back in May.

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