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In the news recently was coverage of an airplane emergency -a British Airways jet that caught on fire on the tarmac at Las Vegas McCarran airport. Nobody died (thankfully!) though there were a few people injured (from what I read, mostly cuts and bruises from going down the slide)
In the aftermath of the fire, I read a few news articles talking about how there were some passengers who appeared to have taken their bags with them as they evacuated the plane
and also from bloggers:
One Mile at a Time: Leave carryon items behind
Michael W Travels: What would you do during a plane emergency evacuation
What would I do in an airplane emergency?
I have never personally been in any sort of airplane emergency where I’ve had to evacuate the airplane, but as a “planner”, I’ve definitely thought about this situation before. You know you’re a crazy planner type when you’ve sat in church (or anywhere else) and planned out what you’d do if a shooter came in or if there was a fire…
I typically travel with a laptop in a backpack-style bag. I keep it under the seat in front of me, and it looks something like this
I do also sometimes carry on a wheeled suitcase and put it in the overhead bin, but my laptop bag is almost always stowed under the seat in front of me
I know this is likely to cause “angry comments”, but in an airplane emergency that requires evacuation, I’m taking my laptop bag with me.
It’s right in front of me, cab be easily grabbed on my way out, would not slow down the evacuation, and since it’s wearable, it wouldn’t block the aisle or any other passenger’s evacuation route.
Leave the suitcases and the overhead bins during an airplane emergency
My opinion – If you can wear it, you can take it.
That’s where I draw my line – so women’s purses, backpacks stored underneath the seat in front of you are all fair game, while any suitcases or anything that is stowed in the overhead bins should be left behind.
One of the comments that I read made the suggestion that in an airplane emergency, flight attendants should be able to lock the overhead bins so that passengers were not able to get anything out of the overhead bins – personally, I would be in favor of that, though it’s possible that might even SLOW evacuation down during an airplane emergency, as people try furiously to open the locked overhead bins.
As for the British Airways Las Vegas fire, in the ABC News article, a passenger on the flight mentioned that “some other passengers further back in coach had time to grab their carry-on luggage while waiting to evacuate.”
Another consideration might be that in many cases, an airplane emergency might be akin to a “crime scene”, with FAA or NTSB officials locking down the scene for days, further delaying access to carry-on luggage.
What about the legalities during an airplane emergency?
According to a Skift article on the subject, “Guidance posted online by the Federal Aviation Administration advises passengers to leave bags on board during an evacuation — but does not mandate it”. The only guidance I could find online was on this FAA webpage, which labels
If an emergency evacuation is necessary, leave your carry-on items on the plane. Retrieving personal items may impede the safe evacuation of passengers.
under the heading “Carry-On Baggage Tips” (emphasis mine)
You ARE required legally to follow all crew member instructions, though different airlines have different regulations about whether or not they include instructions to leave belongings in an emergency, and I’m not clear whether such an instruction was made in the recent Las Vegas airplane emergency.
So, let’s hear your thoughts – am I crazy? What would you do? Have you been in an airplane emergency that required evacuation, and if so, what DID you do?
(UPDATE: After reading some of the comments and suggestions by readers in this post, I revisited the decision about what to do in an airplane evacuation)