Would you grab your luggage in an emergency landing?


A study finds people value their material goods over their own safety. Source: Shutterstock

WHAT IS worth more? Your safety or your personal belongings?

According to a new study conducted by ComRes for the Royal Aeronautical Society in the UK, materialism takes priority.

The report revealed a whopping 35 percent of passengers admitted they would attempt to grab their cabin luggage in an emergency even if it posed a risk to other passengers.

A further 75 percent of respondents said they would retrieve some of their belongings if the evacuation scenario didn’t pose an immediate risk to others.

Only one in five people (20 percent) said they wouldn’t recover anything at all, and just take the contents of their pockets, no matter the severity of the emergency.

“The fact that so many passengers would decide to stop and collect some or all of their belongings during an emergency evacuation is a worrying finding,” Royal Aeronautical Society Flight Operations Group Chair Terry Buckland said in a statement.

“Airline operator safety briefings instruct passengers to leave all their belongings in the event of an emergency evacuation for clear safety reasons,” he added.

“Passengers will not have a full appreciation of the nature and seriousness of an emergency and should not be ignoring or questioning crew commands.”


Source: Shutterstock

Although 2017 was named the safest year for commercial air travel with only 14 accidents and statistics showing flying is the safest mode of transport, emergency scenarios still occur.

These events give leverage to the need for safety briefings upon every flight. However, as a paper released earlier this year by the Royal Aeronautical Society explained, these briefings often fall on deaf ears.

The paper gave numerous examples of passengers ignoring onboard safety instructions in the event of an emergency including the case of a determined British Airways passenger on a Boeing 777 from Beijing to London in 2008.

The aircraft crash-landed on its final approach at London Heathrow and after a full evacuation, the passenger in question clambered back up the emergency slide and into the cabin to retrieve their personal belongings.


Source: Shutterstock

But the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) discovered that it’s not just passengers who are attached to their belongings that pose a risk in an emergency scenario.

A safety notice released by the CAA in 2011 highlighted other issues about evacuation protocol. It identified the following problems:

• “Non-compliance with procedures in an operator’s Operations Manual with regard to size and weight of hand baggage;
• Exits being blocked by hand baggage during boarding and, usually, refueling;
• Confrontation between cabin crew and ground staff over ownership of delays, possibly leading to non-compliance with safety procedures;
• Confrontation between cabin crew and flight crew members, possibly leading to less effective crew resource management;
• Confrontation between cabin crew and passengers, possibly leading to disruptive behavior;
• Hand baggage being relocated to the hold (internal or external) without being subject to questioning about content, particularly with regard to spare lithium batteries;
• Numerous items of hand baggage being relocated to the external hold without flight crew knowledge or the supervision of an aircraft loader, and associated mass and balance considerations;
• Hand baggage being relocated to the internal hold without flight crew knowledge or the supervision of an aircraft loader, and associated mass and balance considerations;
• Hand baggage being stowed in non-approved stowages including toilets;
• Aircraft taxiing whilst cabin crew were still trying to stow hand baggage;
• Passengers standing during taxiing due to inability to stow hand baggage; and
• Unrestrained hand baggage being carried on the flight deck.”


Source: Shutterstock

A solution offered to prevent passengers taking belongings in an emergency, one which is echoed by Buckland, is that overhead storage should be lockable.

“The concept of lockable overhead stowage bins should be considered by aviation authorities to see if this might help alleviate the issues raised in this survey.”

However, in the 2016 American Airlines crash at O’Hare Airport, cabin crew reported passengers outrightly refused to leave baggage onboard the flaming fuselage.

This led to a flight attendant offering a solution of issuing fines to passengers who take their luggage with them.

National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) chairman Robert Sumwalt told the Chicago Sun-Times “I have thought about that [suggestion]. People might be less inclined to worry about all their Gucci luggage.”

Despite the offered solutions, human instinct for safety should prevail all materialistic tendencies. But of course, nobody wants to be in a scenario to find out what characteristic wins.