“If an emergency evacuation becomes necessary, leave all carry-on items behind”

Those of you that fly United frequently might know what I’m talking about. On United flights as soon as the captain advises the flight attendants to prepare the cabin for landing on descent, the purser makes the usual “please make sure your seatbacks and tray tables are in the full upright and locked position, carry-on items stowed, and seatbelts securely fastened” announcement. That’s pretty typical on just about any airline, but about half the time the purser will add “if an emergency evacuation becomes necessary, leave all carry-on items behind.” Now that’s perfectly appropriate during the safety demo, but is it really necessary prior to landing?

The reason I mention it is because I’ve witnessed a few passengers sort of shocked after hearing the announcement, especially infrequent flyers and those that don’t exactly enjoy the flying experience. I’ve gotten used to it, but I remember when United first added that to the pre-landing script. I was flying from Los Angeles to San Francisco and it was a VERY gusty day at SFO with thick clouds and 40 mile per hour winds. Suffice it to say it wasn’t a smooth approach, and the captain advised the flight attendants to be seated a bit earlier than usual. I saw some people sweating a bit even in first class, which is rare since they’re typically the frequent travelers. I wasn’t worried until I heard the flight attendant make the “if an emergency evacuation becomes necessary” announcement. I had never heard it before, so it scared the hell out of me! I figured we were preparing for some sort of emergency landing.

Anyway, I think United needs to reconsider the wording on that or just eliminate it entirely. It’s just not necessary!

Filed Under: United
  1. I disagree with your last statement that United’s evacuation statement is not necessary; infrequent fliers are the ones most likely to take their carry-on items with them during an evacuation. I certainly don’t want to have to jump over cabin baggage and passengers to reach the exit.

    However, I do think United could soften the statement with something like:

    “In the unlikely event that an emergency evacuation becomes necessary, leave all carry-on items behind.”

  2. Not sure if it’s an airline policy or a government policy, but on Air Canada flights of four hours or more, there is a standard PA announcement reminding passengers of the location of the emergency exits and (I think) to leave all personal belongings behind. They mention that the announcement is a matter of policy, presumably so people don’t get unnecessarily alarmed.

  3. Absolutely necessary. Without it (and even to some extent with it) people are going to try to haul luggage out of the overhead bins and increase the risk to themselves and others.

  4. Given how many people feel the need to grab their carry-on after an incident I feel that the announcement is probably a great idea. I’m thinking of the recent Air France incident here in yyz and of course the US Air abbreviated cruise in the Hudson where it was found many (most) of the exiting pax were grabbing their carry-ons.

  5. @Monty — maybe what we need is a central locking mechanism to prevent the opening of overhead bins. Doesn’t address bags under the seats, but cuts down on the larger items at least. Maybe tie it to the seat belt sign — when that’s engaged due to turbolence, you can’t get stuff out of the bins.

  6. hmmmm… not sure if I’ve ever heard that line or perhaps I did and it just didn’t register as out of the ordinary.

    However, on today’s United Express flight (MIA-ORD) I did hear something new that made me chuckle.

    Given that the equip was a CR-7, overhead space is limited.

    Instead of the usual, we’ll have to gate check your bags schpiel, the FA instead asked passengers if they wouldn’t rather “valet check”, their bags that didn’t fit.

    Whoda thunk that United Express offered “valet” service ;o)

  7. I heard a similar announcement on my first bmi flight earlier this week. I thought it was unusual but can see why they feel it’s necessary.

    Also in the same realm of going overboard with safety precautions, on this bmi flight we stopped short of the gate at LHR to wait for our stand, and after the lead FA made a second announcement to remain seated with seatbelts fastened, another FA actually got up and started walking down the aisle to make sure everyone still had their seatbelts. They also announced, and I don’t know if this is something specificto bmi or to British airlines, that you are not allowed to turn on your cell phone until the seatbelt sign has been turned off and the front door opened. I found this to be very strange, although I am used to flying US carriers where you are allowed to use your cell the minute you land.

  8. @Seth — re cell phone use after landing: that appears to be dependent on local laws and regulations. On my flight into FRA recently the UA purser made an announcement that unlike at US airports, cell phone use in FRA isn’t allowed until you’re at the gate.

  9. i think the previous version of the united video safety briefing (before they switched to this Ted-like briefing) didn’t mention this point about leaving carry-on bags behind, which is why i think they got in the habit of mentioning this point… i could be wrong, just my recollection from about 4 years ago…

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