The horrific crash of Aeroflot Flight 1492 on Sunday May 5th 2019 has once again brought to the forefront the importance of cabin crew onboard an aircraft.
One of the crew members Tatyana Kasatkina has told how she ‘grabbed passengers by the collar and pushed them onto the tarmac to speed up the evacuation’ saving countless lives.
She also revealed that many people trying to escape the flames were slowed down by others stopping to grab their luggage, something we now know contributed to 40 passengers and one crew member Maxim Moiseyev, losing their lives.
But this isn’t the first time incidents like this has happened.
When Asiana Flight 214 crashed at San Francisco International Airport on July 6, 2013 passengers were also seen evacuating with their hand luggage despite the catastrophic nature of the crash and ensuing fire that was ravaging the crippled airliner. One photograph showed several passengers, including a woman walking away from the wreckage with a black suitcase and smaller white bag in her hands. Posting on China’s social media site ‘Weibo’ a member of the public commented “Grabbing the bag is an instinct response, but we should always keep in mind that human lives weigh more than our belongings”.
When British Airways Flight 38 crashed at London Heathrow on January 17, 2008 some of the passengers took personal items of luggage with them before exiting via the escape slides. One passenger, who had already evacuated the aircraft, climbed up the Door 4L escape slide to re-enter the cabin, and retrieve his personal belongings, and then exited the aircraft once more.
On September 9, 2015 a British Airways Boeing 777-200 had a rejected take-off at Las Vegas McCarran Airport (LAS), due to a catastrophic engine fire. During the subsequent evacuation countless passengers took time to grab their suitcases, laptops and rucksacks, drastically slowing down the evacuation.
Captain Chris Henkey, who was hailed as a hero for his swift actions that day, later slammed his passengers “Not just in our case but in any case where cabin crew are trying to get passengers off quickly, it is clear that the passengers should not be taking their luggage with them”. He later explained to LBC Radio “What is a cabin member to do? Are they going to stop at the door and ask the people to give them their hand luggage? That is going to take time and the prime reason the cabin crew are there is to get the passengers off quickly – that would delay it. People shouldn’t be taking it off, but if they do there is not much to be done. The only thing that maybe will happen in the future is that the overhead bins will be made lockable and locked from take-off until after landing”.
This is an idea that has once again been suggested following the Aeroflot disaster. Eric Reed who is an Airbus captain for a major US carrier has set up a petition to the US Fedral Aviation Administration (FAA) in an attempt to make retrieving ANY personal belongings during an unplanned emergency evacuation a federal crime and furthermore to get the FAA to look in to electronically locking overhead bins that are controlled solely by the crew to prevent unnecessary delays during a tragedy. The petition has so far gained over 26,000 signatures.
But would lockable overhead bins really work? It is highly unlikely that airlines would be willing to layout the huge costs involved in retrofitting their aircraft, especially in this difficult economic times. And could these locks actually cause more issues? Locking the overhead bins would slow down the crews access to vital equipment such as oxygen masks, first aid kits or smoke hoods. Then there’s the question of how people may react and that passengers struggling to open locked lockers to retrieve their luggage could actually delay an evacuation further.
Footage from an Emirates Boeing 777 that crash landed in Dubai before bursting in to flames on August 3, 2016, showed several passengers attempting to take suitcases from overhead lockers and collect their personal belongings. In the harrowing footage children cries and screams can be heard as smoke seeps in to the cabin and passengers jostle to the emergency exits. Meanwhile the crew can be heard shouting “Leave everything, leave the bags, jump on the slide. Leave the bags we’ll take them”. Thankfully all 282 passengers and 18 crew were evacuated safely.
We tell passengers ‘In the unlikely event of an emergency evacuation, leave all cabin baggage onboard’. In the unlikely event of an accident we have 90 seconds to get you off that aircraft. 90 seconds, regardless of the size of the aircraft, the number of passengers onboard or how many exits are still working. But that 90 seconds does not include time to gather your belongings.
Aircraft evacuation tests were first run in 1952 with help from flight attendants Edith Lauterbach and Iris Peterson who were sent to Cornell University. Speaking of these tests Lauterbach said “We performed 13 evacuation exercises. Our results went to congress and today the industry standard remains 90 seconds to exit aircraft in emergencies”. These tests have gone on to save the lives of hundreds of thousands of passengers who have been caught up in air disasters in the years since those initial tests. Lives saved because of the input by flight attendants.
But let’s be honest ‘Leave all baggage onboard’ isn’t the only instruction our passengers fail to listen to – ‘Sit down the seatbelt sign is on’, ‘Smoking is not permitted anywhere onboard this aircraft’ ‘Don’t drink your own alcohol’, ‘Fasten your seatbelt’, ‘Please take all of your belongings with you’, ‘Electronic devices must be in flight safe mode’, ‘Abusive behaviour and language will not be tolerated’ – all instructions/requests that are ignored on a regular basis.
Then there’s the safety demonstration, which passengers rarely pay attention to. Too busy chatting, reading their papers or magazines or scrolling through social media to care. You may be a frequent flyer and think you know how those aircraft work but there may be subtle, but important, differences you were not aware of.
Believe it or not we’re not standing there waving our arms around for the fun of it. The US National Transportation Safety Board states that better-briefed passengers have a better change of survival.
Although crew that carry out comedic safety demonstrations and airlines that make their safety videos ‘fun’ really don’t help either. While some say that this is done to get your attention, they make me uncomfortable. It’s dumbing down. Safety is not fun. It’s serious. This is your life we’re talking about.
So what has changed over the years that has made passengers so ignorant to the role of cabin crew, for comments like ‘You’re just here to serve me tea and coffee’ ‘You’re just a waiter/waitress in the sky’ to be seen as acceptable?
Safety is something that passengers now take for granted, just another ‘perk’ included in the price of their ticket. Research conducted by Cranfield University revealed that passengers ignore safety briefings because they believe it is the cabin crews responsibility to protect them.
Maybe it’s because flying has thankfully become safer. There’s less footage on the news of mangled wreckage and suitcases burst open with peoples belongings blowing in the wind. So in turn it means that the travelling public feels less anxious when boarding a plane.
Things have to change in our industry. Passengers need to realise that Cabin crew are aviations first responders. We are police, paramedics and firefighters all rolled in to one. And yes we’re also waiters and waitresses making your flight as comfortable as possible. But if the proverbial was to hit the fan then we’re there to save your lives. Please don’t forget that!
Maxim Moiseyev had reportedly dreamed of working in aviation. After completing military academy and serving in the army he passed a correspondence course in civil aviation. He had worked only 15 months as crew before the crash.
One can only imagine the terror he must have felt in those final moments, alone at the rear as the fire engulfed the jet and he was unable to evacuate. When he could not open the door he began sending passengers towards the evacuation slides at the front and no doubt saved a numerous lives.
It’s now time that passengers’ do their bit to make flying safer, to be more prepared for the (thankfully) very rare event of an emergency. Next time you fly look where your nearest exits are. Leave your hand luggage onboard and scream at anyone who reaches for theirs. Fasten your seatbelts when we ask you to. Watch the safety demo, it could just save your life. And please remember – cabin crew are onboard to save your arse, not kiss it.
“Flight attendants don’t die, they just fly higher”
© confessionsofatrolleydolly.com by Dan Air.