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By now, you probably have heard of Emirates Flight 521, which made an emergency landing at Dubai International Airport a few days ago.  It was traveling from Trivandrum International Airport in Thiruvananthapuram, India to Dubai when it appeared to catch on fire as it landed.  Miraculously, all 282 passengers and 18 crew members were able to successfully evacuate the aircraft with no fatalities, though one firefighter did die fighting the fire.

The other day, I shared the video taken from INSIDE the plane as it was evacuating.  In writing the post, I titled the post “Watch these fools try to take their overhead bags off of a burning airplane

Online reaction

There was a bit of reaction to the headline. Trevor, who runs the excellent Tagging Miles blog over on Saverocity, tweeted

Now as a blogger, I don’t mind reaction or criticism – after all, that kind of comes with the territory. I’ve got a lot of respect for Trevor, and we’ve met in person several times and he’s helped me out several times with reselling. We chatted a bit about it on Facebook.  Also, View from the Wing mentioned in one of his posts about the subject

    And I’d like to think that in an evacuation scenario I’d follow instructions, leave my bags behind. But I’m also not going to direct outrage at someone’s behavior under that kind of stress when everyone got out ok. The evacuation, what the planes can handle, and the airline’s response so far appear to have been exemplary. That’s where I’d rather focus.

There was also some discussion I saw over on Twitter regarding the condition of South Asian immigrants working in Dubai and other Middle Eastern cities, specifically mentioning that many of these passengers were likely migrants who might have had all or a majority of their possessions in their bags.

Are they fools?  Or is it foolish behavior?  Or both?  (Or neither)

I can take the criticism that my word choice was poor.  Perhaps the best course of action is to go back to the parenting tactic of correcting the behavior versus engaging in “name calling”.  Especially since it was only a few months ago that I said that I was taking my bag in an airplane emergency (I’ve since repented)


I get that I’m not in exactly the same situation.  I’ve traveled a decent amount, so I’m familiar with how things work, and I’m also just the type of person that is constantly analyzing situations for what might go wrong.  I’m also financially in a situation where it’s unlikely that I will have all of my belongings with me on a plane, and also in a position where if I lost things like my passport and wallet, I’d probably be able to survive generally speaking.

So what to do?

While my word choice may not have been great, I do stand by the general idea that stopping to take bags is a really bad idea and on some level, a degree of “social shaming” is the only way to change this kind of behavior.  Or do you have another idea?

A couple of suggestions I saw thrown out

  1. Include more about this in the safety briefings (though I guess that would require people actually LISTENING to the safety briefings….
  2. Automatically lock overhead bins until the plane lands (I suppose in that case, you might have even MORE delay as people still tried to get to their belongings
  3. More awareness for people to keep their wallet / phone / passports on their person while on a plane, especially during takeoff and landing.
  4. Other than that, I’m not sure what else can be done

We’ve had a bit of a lucky streak in air travel where planes have managed successful evacuations (including this one), but in an airplane emergency, seconds count, and stopping to get your bags could easily have made the difference between fatalities and none.

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