Flight Attendants Up In Arms Over Passengers Who Take Their Carry On Baggage During Evacuations


When a Delta Air Lines jet had to be evacuated at Denver International Airport last week, passengers apparently once more ignored emergency instructions to leave their belongings behind on the plane.

As was the case in previous scenarios there was an outcry from flight attendants over the dangers associated with this kind of behavior.

Indeed there is a legitimate point that in a serious emergency the handling of personal belongings from the overhead bin takes valuable time, hindering the evacuation process.

So when Delta flight 1845 landed in Denver last Tuesday and the cabin starting filling with smoke there was panic among passengers and crew, resulting in an emergency evacuation of the plane. And apparently once again (as in previous incidents) some passengers couldn’t be held back to take their baggage off the plane.

This Twitter post shows it in detail:

There was an interesting article on INC (access here) where the author publish a barrage of frustration aired by flight attendants across the board.

… photos and video of the passengers immediately afterward raised the ire of flight attendants and other airline employees around the world.

The problem? Many of the passengers were holding their carry on luggage.

That meant they had to have stopped to gather it all during the emergency evacuation. At the very least, they would have moved a bit more slowly than they otherwise would have, in order to carry it.

In the hours that followed, I heard from quite a few airline of these employees, and I saw what others were posting on social media. Their reactions ranged from annoyance to extreme anger at the photos, and frustrating that some passengers don’t listen to or follow their safety instructions.

Several airline industry professionals including many flight attendants left comments for the author of the article (I quoted some here without their names attached as in the original article linked):

1. Retired Southwest Airlines operations, training and cargo supervisor.

“Flight crews are trained to evacuating in a 90 seconds minimum. … Every second counts and I might keep someone else from surviving by grabbing my carry on.”

2. Rlight attendant, American Airlines

“It angers me. … They may not care about their safety, but how dare they put others’ lives … in danger. This is very upsetting.”

3. Retired flight attendant, Southwest Airlines

“Passengers are asked to leave all luggage and exit the aircraft. They are putting their lives at risk taking baggage with them.”

4. Retired flight attendant with 44 years experience

“What’s more important, your bags or your life? … I can’t understand passengers and their carry on luggage. I’m retired. It’s the one thing I will not miss.”

5. Flight attendant, JetBlue

“I think all flight attendants will agree this is not OK. Time is of the essence, every second is valuable when it comes to an emergency evacuation. Those carry-on bags are just simple things. We are trying to save lives. ”

6. Flight Attendant, American Airlines

“It’s not only your life you’re putting at risk but other people you’re slowing the process somebody else might not make it out because you made it out with your bag? Unacceptable!”

7. Flight attendant

“Looks like they don’t appreciate their lives enough to leave those carry ons behind. They lost valuable seconds. In the airline industry every second counts.”

8. Flight attendant, American Airlines

“I’ve been saying this for years. we need an announcement telling everyone there will be $5,000 fine for every bag found out on the tarmac after an evacuation.”

9. Flight attendant, retired

“It pisses me off. Those few seconds can impact many lives! Carry-ons are not important in an evacuation!!! People become stupid on airplanes. ”

10. Flight attendant, 36 years experience

“The time it takes to retrieve luggage is time wasted. … The interior of an aircraft is highly toxic during a fire. [Moving quickly] … is virtually impossible with passengers taking carryon luggage.”

11. Flight attendant, 42 years experience

“Anyone bringing anything with them is not only jeopardizing their safety but the safety of those around them. Doors get blocked, slides get jammed, people are running with no shoes tripping through glass. … You can’t get away from any plane on fire fast enough with a 50-pound bag on your back.”

Again, these people do indeed have a point but the problem here is that currently there are no laws against taking carry on baggage from the aircraft during an emergency. The announcements on board are simply a safety guideline by the airline and while the passengers in question might be in the wrong for taking their bags it’s not illegal to do so.


What’s needed here is new legislation to make such behavior a punishable offense and even then I think in a real emergency that comes with emotional distress people just grad whatever they can as their brain goes into shut off mode and one simply follows instincts.

Airlines can’t levy fines for passenger misconduct though in the case that someone actually gets injured or god beware killed during such an incident there might be a case to hold offenders criminally responsible or at least liable in a court of law if it can be proven that their actions contributed to the matter in any way.

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