Should Passengers Who Evacuate With Baggage Be Fined?
“As a woman, I don’t have the luxury of putting my most important documents, phone, etc, in my front pocket. If I leave my purse on the plane, how do I prove who I am? Fortunately, this has never happened to me, but you can be sure that if it ever did, I will certainly be grabbing my purse.”
Should Passengers Who Evacuate With Baggage Be Fined?
Thankfully, most passengers of flights will never get to experience an evacuation from an airplane due to a crash or a fire as two examples of a critical emergency; but Mom of 4 — who is a reader of The Gate — posted the comment which you just read in response to this article pertaining to why passengers grab their belongings prior to evacuating an airplane, which I wrote and posted on Sunday, February 18, 2018.
Although access of an overhead storage bin to retrieve belongings can consume precious seconds during an evacuation which could literally mean the difference between life and death, that would not be the issue in the case of Mom of 4 and her purse. When using an inflatable emergency evacuation slide, keeping your body free of impediments is crucial to a successful escape. Nothing should be on your person which can potentially impede upon egress from the airplane down to the ground — such as loose straps or spiked heels as two examples — and you should extend your arms and legs out in front of you for best results, as shown in the photograph at the top of this article…
…but although carrying a purse may arguably be overlooked during an evacuation, other passengers would still be adamant about first retrieving their belongings from an overhead storage bin prior to leaving the aircraft — even if it is on fire — which has led to the citing by the National Transportation Safety Board of at least four aviation emergencies which occurred in the United States during the past several years in which an evacuation was hampered by passengers first retrieving their belongings.
Robert L. Sumwalt — who is the head of that independent federal government agency of the United States — has thought about the suggestion offered by at least one flight attendant pertaining to imposing fines upon passengers who evacuate with their belongings. “The NTSB issued safety recommendations to the Federal Aviation Administration, urging it to, among other things, conduct research to ‘measure and evaluate the effects of carry-on baggage on passenger deplaning times and safety during an emergency evacuation’ and ‘identify effective countermeasures to reduce any determined risks, and implement the countermeasures’”, according to this article written by Robert Herguth of the Chicago Sun-Times.
That article also quoted Sara Nelson — who is the president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA — who said that “Apparently the threat of death by incineration fueled by thousands of gallons of jet fuel isn’t enough of a deterrent to stop passengers from taking time to grab carry-on bags during an emergency evacuation”; and that the Federal Aviation Administration of the United States can use laws which already exist to pursue criminal charges and fines up to $250,000.00 — plus civil fines of as much as $25,000.00 — “for interfering with the flight attendants’ ability to perform their duties, depending on the severity of the interference.”
Evidence of the interference of members of the flight crew by passengers who resisted directions to leave a distressed airplane without their belongings is in the form of this document of interviews with flight attendants by members of the National Transportation Safety Board on Wednesday, November 2, 2016 — five days after an incident which involved a problem with one of the engines of an airplane operated by American Airlines. “The pilot did a great job stopping the aircraft”, said Shawn Ortiz, who was one of the flight attendants aboard that airplane; but when asked during the interview if he observed passengers attempting to bring bags off the aircraft, Ortiz responded that “Passengers had bags, mostly smaller brief cases as they exited the aircraft.”
That the article from the Chicago Sun-Times was released one day after the article which I wrote is sheer coincidence; but it was a good follow-up to a problem which is potentially deadly…
…but I highly doubt that a fine — or any other form of steep disciplinary or punitive action — would be enough to deter passengers from retrieving their belongings during an evacuation of an airplane; as the possibility of death is apparently not persuasive or convincing enough. At best, the fine would just add a drop to the financial bucket of the federal government of the United States, in my opinion.
If you have not already done so, please read this article pertaining to 5 reasons never to evacuate an airplane with your belongings.
I will defer to Christian — who is a reader of The Gate — whom I believe should have the final thought to this article from this comment which he posted as a response to the other article:
“As long as the passengers who want to exit with baggage are willing to let the passengers without baggage to exit first, I’m perfectly agreeable with the situation. If there’s an emergency exodus and people want to stop to gather belongings, I will do what’s needed to allow myself, my family, and other normal passengers to exit without being delayed. If you want to take your stuff, have a seat and wait for the people who want to leave in a hurry.”
Photograph ©2013 by Brian Cohen.