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Why Your Luggage Could Kill Someone

I’ve noticed a worrying trend among airline passengers lately. After an emergency landing, when flyers must evacuate out of a plane, videos emerge in the news of people fleeing the plane while carrying their luggage.

The Dubai flight that crash landed this week is a prime example of this, as you can see in this video. The cabin fills with smoke as passengers scramble to take their luggage from the overhead bins. Thankfully, everyone aboard the plane still managed to get out safely before the jet bursts into flames moment later, killing a firefighter who was battling the blaze.

First: Videos and photos from inside of an evacuation should not be being broadcast, because they should not exist. In a true emergency situation, literally every second counts in getting people out of the plane. By stopping to film or take a selfie of the scene, you are wasting precious time. Don’t do that.

Second: FAA rules require airplanes to be built so that they can be completely evacuated in less than 90 seconds. This isn’t an arbitrary number. That’s the amount of time it can take a fire to engulf a plane cabin, thanks to the fuel and flammables on-board. Think about how long it takes to board or disembark a full flight under normal circumstances, with everyone dealing with their personal item and carry-on suitcase. Would you want to wait that long while your plane is potentially about to explode?

I cannot emphasize this enough. If there is an emergency, listen to your flight attendants. If they are telling you to evacuate and leave your belongings behind, then LEAVE EVERYTHING BEHIND. This means your backpack that’s under your seat, and especially your rolling suitcase that’s in the overhead compartment. By trying to carry it with you, you’re holding up the people behind you trying to evacuate, and that could actually kill them.

It’s not only the time factor that makes bringing your luggage with you such a safety hazard. Emergency slides are actually somewhat fragile (which is why they ask you to remove high heels if you have to use them–they could puncture). Imagine if your rolling suitcase punctured the emergency slide on your way down, leaving the people behind you trapped (most planes are the equivalent of two stories off of the ground) inside. If you did make it down, you’d be causing a delay at the bottom of the slide trying to collect your bag again and walk off. Also, think about how much bags can shift during turbulence in the overhead compartment. After a crash landing, you could open the overhead and have a bunch of bags fall out, blocking the aisle. Not ideal when visibility could be compromised because of smoke.

Mark Weiss, a former American Airlines pilot, told the BBC (after a similar incident in Las Vegas) : “Panic will always set in in situations like this, but if there’s fire and smoke, that air is very toxic. If you’re standing up to try and get something from an overhead bin or struggling to get it out from under a seat, you’re expending a lot of energy and using oxygen. Not only does that use of energy take up precious clean air, it prohibits others from evacuating quickly. air toxicity and smoke inhalation is what kills most people in fires.”

Please, don’t be selfish in the event of an emergency. Nothing in your bag is more important than your life or the lives of people around you. If there are certain things you think you wouldn’t be willing to leave behind (medications, your phone, your passport, etc.) put them in your pocket for take-off and landing, so that they will already be on you if you have to evacuate.

And if the threat of death or causing someone else’s death doesn’t deter you? You might just well be shamed on social media and in the news for grabbing your bags, as passengers from British Airways Flight 2276 were, with some people even calling for offenders to be charged for endangering others.

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