When you arrive at the airport then board the aircraft, you will no doubt be thinking only of the destination you are heading, those loved ones you are leaving behind, or are excited to meet up with. You may be wondering if you’ve packed enough underwear or if your electric toothbrush might have switched itself on in the hold. You will be wondering what to watch first on the in-flight entertainment, you will also be thinking about food no doubt, and how fast the hosties will be trundling through the cabin with the drink service.
Before that- on boarding you will probably have slowly walked down the aisle, as further down there is someone taking ages to put their bag in the locker- you tut at them (inwardly or outwardly). Then another person stands up and retrieves a bag they have already stowed away just to grab something else out of it. The boarding takes ages, everyone goes slow but also, they all want to go fast at the same time so they can get their butts on that seat for the next few hours, then you find your seat and also struggle to squeeze your cabin luggage in the overhead locker, it will either be already full up or your bag is just a bit tight- especially if you’ve just thrown in that bottle of duty-free gin. You might have to store your luggage under your seat, not good for your leg room, but good if you are one of those types that are in and out constantly; headphones, laptop, notebook, book, hand cream, face cream. You may have to keep your bag by your feet as you have passports and flight/ hotel documents you want close to you; you may even need your medication close to hand.
Depending on the size of the aircraft and how many doors are in use, it can take between 20 minutes and 40 minutes to board.
Then the cabin crew stream through after delivering their safety demonstration and check your bags are tucked right under the seat in front of you and that you don’t have blankets etc obstructing the aisle. This part will probably annoy you; you know everything is all good.
You did vaguely watch the safety demonstration, didn’t you? - Sure one of them looked rather hot so you paid them a bit more attention, but its fine, you know that with the law of averages that this journey will go smoothly, just like every other flight you’ve been on, so you are confident that reading the duty free brochure or looking out the window at the plane being pushed back from stand is better than listening to the cabin crew for 3 minutes. But just what did you miss during the announcement? Was it the part that said your nearest exit may be blocked, or perhaps the part that said, ‘IN AN EMERGENCY PLEASE LEAVE ALL HAND LUGGAGE BEHIND’
So- I just mentioned how long it takes to board an aircraft, but what about how long it takes to evacuate an aircraft in an emergency? That's every passenger and crew member getting out of their seats and down the evacuation slides, also factoring in that some exits may be blocked and unusable. 90 seconds. Yes just 90 seconds, that is based on a fully loaded aircraft and only half the exits in being in use. This is an industrywide standard as after that amount of time toxic fumes and flames overcome the cabin and make an escape impossible. This theory is set on passengers vacating the aircraft alone and not counting for retrieving their hand luggage- of which this can significantly increase evacuation time.
And so your fears come true… you are involved in a plane crash, you have had little or no warning, the chances of survival are huge though, people fear of plane crashes, but it is really one of the safest modes of transport – read our post here on how to survive a plane crash -. The cabin crew will be shouting their evacuation drills, guiding passengers to the exits, calls like ‘come this way’ , 'leave your belonging behind' will be shouted. You will undo your seatbelt and head to the exit. There the cabin crew will be telling you to ‘sit and jump’ down the slide. If everyone does exactly that then the evacuation will be as smooth as possible.
When passengers stand up and go under their seat to retrieve hand luggage or stand opening the overhead lockers/ bins/ compartments and grab their bags this is when the rate of evacuation slows. And when the evacuation slows it increases the chance of injury and death, especially in a smoke-filled cabin, when the aircraft is on fire.
But people do grab their luggage and it is a very worrying concern. Amid the mayhem those grabbing their bags are wasting ever so precious time, blocking aisles and hampering the escape route of their fellow passengers.
There is nothing so important in your luggage that cannot be replaced, your luggage should not be a priority over someone’s life!
You may not actually understand the impact you taking your luggage means so here it is a bit simpler-
Why can’t I take my luggage?
· You could impede an exit by blocking it with your bag
· It is thick arid smoke inside; you pick up your bag but drop it and cannot see it for the smoke stinging your eyes- it becomes a trip hazard
· You can’t see properly, and you are shaking you rush to get your bag and knock someone else out
· You will be exiting the plane by a giant inflatable slide- your bag could easily tear the slide- rendering it out of use. This slide will probably be like no other slide you’ve been on before
· Those duty-free bottles are highly flammable, and you are exiting an aircraft which is on fire, will not mix- especially if there is broken glass.
But I have important items in my luggage!
Your passport? – Inform your countries embassy- they will understand
Your money? – claim on insurance
Your phone? - claim on insurance
Medicine- there will be paramedics treating passengers after the crash- let them know
Books, pants, that extra pair of shoes that wouldn’t fit in the hold… - replaceable
You know what is not replaceable?! Someone’s life! What is in your bag that is more worthy than someone’s actual life?
I am only one person
If you are the only person on a packed plane to take your luggage then the chances are slimmer, but you most definitely won’t be the only one, if everyone thought I am only one person then the consequences would be devastating
There is a queue
There is a build up of people moving towards the exit, you think you can just grab your bag no matter what has been instructed to you, but you could be the one that now causes a build up behind you and so on
It could be you
You could be the person at the back of the aircraft that cannot escape. You are the one choking on the fumes and smoke, waiting on your turn to get out of the aircraft. That time might never come. You also thought about taking your bag but everyone in front of you thought about taking their bag too, that now you won’t make it off the aircraft
Why have people taken their luggage?
· It could just be as simple as they are cowards who think of no one but themselves and their laptop. They want to defy what has been instructed. They don’t care about other people. Other humans. Their interest is their own survival. Even though they may also be risking their own survival.
But there are several other theories-
· Maybe you did hear that part and took a mental note that of course you would leave your belongings behind- you’ll be in too much of a rush or a panic to think about your bags. But panic and fear take over- as one minute your flight was going normal and smooth and before your very eyes your life is flashing in front of you. When you leave your house, instinct is to grab your wallet and car keys, in this situation you may just grab your bag as you know you brought it on board and now you are leaving. You haven’t even thought about what the consequences will be.