This Is How NOT To Evacuate A Plane

Filed Under: Other Airlines

It’s easy to be a Monday morning quarterback when it comes to emergency evacuations on planes. After all, when you’re making a split second decision that you think might be life or death, and when you don’t have access to full/accurate information, it’s easy to act irrationally.

Which brings me to the story of Friday night’s evacuation on Allegiant, whereby passengers decided it made sense to evacuate onto the wing, once the plane was already at the gate. Via ABC News:

Allegiant Air flight 330 had arrived in Boise from Los Angeles about 7 p.m. local time when a fuel spilled occurred while the plane was at the gate, said Boise Airport spokesman Sean Briggs. The passengers saw vapor coming from the spill, which they thought was smoke, he said.

Passenger Niki Hughes told ABC News in an email that vapor was filling the plane and was so strong that people were covering their noses with their clothes.

“They did not make any announcements to the rest of the plane until they noticed that someone had opened the emergency exit,” she said. “The flight attendant made it clear that she was frustrated at the fact that someone opened the door because they would not be able to leave on time now for their next flight. People were visibly scared and confused and the staff on the plane just seemed annoyed.”

Which brings us to the picture of a couple of dozen people standing on the wing… with their carry-ons!

My initial thoughts are:

  • It’s understandable passengers were scared and wanted a way out.
  • It sure seems like the crew wasn’t doing a very good job communicating the situation if this all happened. Was the crew really expressing frustration over the next flight possibly not being on-time, rather than reassuring passengers everything was okay?
  • If passengers were concerned about a fuel spill, a wing (potentially filled with fuel) might not be the smartest place to congregate.
  • It strikes me as incredibly selfish when passengers take carry-ons with them in the event of an emergency evacuation. When I recently wrote about this, I was surprised how many people disagreed with me, explaining how important their possessions are. But taking carry-ons onto a wing without any sort of an evacuation slide strikes me as especially odd, since I’m not sure how exactly they see that playing out.

Anyway, fortunately everyone was okay, though this remains one of the stranger evacuations I’ve seen. Especially since it seems like it was completely avoidable.

  1. People who take their carry one with them during an evacuation are selfish. Justify it all you want, but unless you are the only person on the plane, you taking a carry on will slow down the process for everyone else. Jackasses.

  2. From an ATCO’s point of view it is sad and frustrating to see people being so incredibly selfish. Why do they take their hand luggage in a situation like that?
    Is it because of feeling so important or lack of knowledge?
    It shouldn’t be the latter because of the safety demonstrations and info available in the safety cards.

    Astonishing. Total indifference for other people’s lives.

    In an emergency, leave everything behind. Period.

  3. I don’t know what is worse: those who don’t follow instructions to leave their crap because they don’t fly often, and therefore don’t understand the severity of why taking things is a bad idea, or those who are frequent flyers, but are too selfish and entitled and think they know better and their crap is worth more than risking other people’s lives.

  4. i was surprise that quite a lot of your blog reader made a decision to keep their belonging while evacuate

    That @atxtravel stated a point that it ONLY require 5 seconds for searching his laptop and another 5 seconds for the camera and a jacket

    This recalled me about the China Airlines 737-800 incident in Naha Airport, Okinawa, Japan.

    The plane was caught on fire after landing, the crews did a brilliant job to evacuate everyone and the two pilots stayed until everyone gone and they have to jumped off from the cockpit, fire engulfed the whole plane after 60secs from everyone evacuate.

    If there are 6 people doing the same like @atxtravel, they are all dead.

  5. Also, just because you *think* you can get your stuff in 5 seconds doesn’t mean everyone else can, and someone else see you grab your shit, they’ll want to do it to, and whoever else see them do it. Then everyone wants to do it. By being selfish and entitled, you set a bad example to others to follow.

  6. If this happened while the plane was at the gate, might it make sense that the passengers already were already holding their stuff waiting to disembark? In which case might it make sense to evacuate with it, rather than taking the time to put it down somewhere.

  7. Couple of things. Yes, it’s stupid to take your carry-ons. No possession is worth more than your life.

    But we may be giving too much credit to people who don’t fly a lot. We all know the wing is full of fuel – we read this blog all the time, we make a hobby out of flying, etc. Does the average passenger know where the fuel is or isn’t?

    I only mention this because on Friday, flying back home to LGA from YYZ on Westjet, after the safety announcement, a passenger upfront jokingly asked one of the FAs why they demo the seatbelt, and she said that several times each week she has to help someone into or out of their belt. Most people don’t fly as much I’d bet we do. Especially on a leisure-focused carrier like Allegiant.

    Oh, and then there’s panic. You think it’s smoke, you know there’s fuel – even if you don’t know where it is, and you aren’t thinking clearly. You just want out of the metal tube.

    So, yeah. The FAs probably could have done more. And it’s sure dumb to take your bag, but I’m not sure it’s all selfishness and pre-meditation here.

  8. I’ve felt nauseous a few times when “normal” fuel fumes have gotten into the air system. If there was a large fuel spill then I can certainly sympathise with their desire to get out.

    As to whinging about carry ons. It wasn’t an emergency and I’d wager most of them knew that (fuel vapor doesn’t particularly look like smoke). In an actual emergency its not at all surprising some go on autopilot/panic and end up taking their bag with them. It’s all well and good sitting on the sofa thinking how superior you are to them, but you weren’t there… Granted if they made the conscious decision to slow everything down they should be criticised (though it doesn’t always slow things down as much as people assume – like if it was on the floor in the exit row, it would have to be moved anyway).

  9. Just wondering. If you had to evacuate, and the flight attendants told you to, would you EVER get your carry-one back, or are they lost for good?

  10. @Lucky, will the passenger who opened emergency exit be punished? It is quite normal for plane to have fuel spill and vapor all over the plane, especially for an old plans at MD-80. I don’t understand why passengers are scared. MD80 is old yet working, also, engines of MD80 are located in tail so I don’t see why threat could be an issue.

  11. I’ve sat on an exit row seat in the past and I know I’d never open it unless instructed to do so. There was definitely miscommunication involved and who knows? Perhaps the exit row passenger was told by one FA to open the door (it only takes 1 FA to give the OK to do so, no?)
    As for carryons, that’s always a no-no; hence why I always have a shirt pocket that will have my passport and at least a $100 bill.

  12. @ Dhj — It’s anyone’s guess, though I doubt it. It seems like the crew wasn’t clear with instructions, and the passenger didn’t seem to be malicious. I think Allegiant will be footing the bill for this.

  13. @ Parker — It probably depends on the circumstances. Assuming they can be recovered, I assume you would be reunited with your bags reasonably quickly.

  14. @ Neil S. — Great point, and don’t disagree at all. Though I also think it’s even more important for infrequent flyers to follow all crewmember instructions, since they lack some context which more frequent flyers might have. But ultimately it sounds like the crew wasn’t doing a good job communicating with passengers, which likely was a big contributing factor.

  15. Anything in your hands is going to slow you from navigating an overwing exit, period, if even by less than second. Multiply that by the number of passengers on the manifest and it obviously could endanger someone’s life.

    I’m convinced. Leave carryons behind.

  16. I live in Boise, and this has been all over the news here…

    It struck me as strange that people were in such a panic to get off the plane that they pulled the emergency exit open, but no one actually tried to get off the wing?

  17. If people really were having problems breathing that is an anomaly and if the front door wasn’t open or the aisle was jammed with disembarking passengers I can see why someone took matters into their own hands. Crew should have been on the PA system telling pax they were aware of the situation. If the crew wasn’t aware something unusual was happening or passengers really were having problems breathing and the crew did nothing about it then I can’t blame passengers for taking charge of the situation. Jumping off the wing onto the tarmac could have caused injuries so I can understand why passengers didn’t do that. Carry-ons should have been left behind but again I’m not going to fault passengers if the crew in the plane and on the ground wasn’t communicating.

  18. @Parker “Just wondering. If you had to evacuate, and the flight attendants told you to, would you EVER get your carry-one back, or are they lost for good?”

    Airline rules make it clear that in case of an evacuation, the flight crew gets to open your bags and divide the loot amongst themselves. Anything left is incinerated. That’s why they always tell you to leave your bags behind.

    Anything you leave on the plane is lost forever.

  19. It only takes one person to set a bad example for lots of others to follow. Witnessed this recently on a flight in China with several rows of infrequent leisure travelers– as the plane was taxiing to the gate, on man unbuckled his belt (which is quite loud!) and suddenly dozens of seat belts are unbuckling.

    Next thing you know, same man jumps up to open up the bin and grab his bag. As soon as he does, 6 more people get up to do the same, including an elderly lady, just as the plane stops suddenly. She almost got hit with a bag. All the while the FAs are desperately trying to get everyone to sit down, finally running back through the cabin to put the bags back up and closing the bins. I was impressed with the enforcement.

    But this is how it would happen in an evacuation too. Just one selfish person to start the chain reaction.

  20. When UA1549 went down in the Hudson River, those passengers DID get their luggage back eventually, so I would hope that more “normal” evacuations (smoke, emergency landings) would get your luggage back as well.

  21. @owen – please don’t hesitate to quote the rule out, if in case there are such rules, this is a big breach of duty of care.

  22. With only 50 planes, this debacle (caused entirely by THEIR flight crew), reverberated throughout the entire flying schedule. My plane the next day from Orlando was 7 hours late and was substituted with a Miami Air 737 and flight crew! Blame Allegiant for this screw up! Their flight crew should have done a better job or reassuring obviously panicking customers who were choking on jet fumes !!

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