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Flyers Told to Breathe Through Seat Covers

Flyers Told to Breathe Through Seat Covers
Jesse Tabit

Passengers on a Porter Airlines flight Monday were forced to breathe through the material covering the headrests in front of them due to a lack of oxygen masks onboard during an emergency situation. As smoke filled the cabin of the Bombardier Q400 about 30 minutes after takeoff, crew instructed the 66 passengers to breathe through the seat coverings.

The flight made a safe emergency landing about 15 minutes after the initial fire alarm went off. No injuries were reported.

In an email statement, Porter defended the lack of oxygen masks onboard, saying that aircraft operating below 25,000 feet are not required to have drop-down masks under Transport Canada and FAA regulations.

For more information on this story, visit Global News.

[Photo: Porter Airlines]

View Comments (4)


  1. sokolov

    October 24, 2015 at 12:02 pm

    Please remove the article or add some background. The passenger clearly has no clue, and that’s OK. But the fact that news outlets are spreading his complaint as if it had any merit is a shame to journalism.

    To find this on flyertalk without expert comment is shocking.

    On planes that have a pressurized cabin and oxygen masks, pilots are instructed to NOT deploy oxygen masks for passengers in case of smoke/fumes. The reason is simple: The passenger oxygen masks are supplemental (!). They mix oxygen with the cabin air. People would still inhale smoke/fumes.

    Also, you would activate the oxygen generator, which gets super hot (fire hazard!), and, of course, the oxygen stream. You really don’t want to add oxygen if there is a probability of a fire! There could be flashovers, etc. Horrible!

    Supplemental oxygen masks for passengers are used in case of pressure loss, so that passengers don’t fall unconscious. They only supply oxygen for a short while (IIRC 10 minutes are required), until the plane has reached a level where the ambient pressure is enough to breathe. For this, the plane does an emergency descent. So it goes down very fast, and it probably hurts crew and passengers a lot (until your eardrum rips).

    However, below 20,000 feet, the supplemental oxygen masks do not activate the supply of oxygen. They just pump the normal cabin air – with fumes, as the case may be.

    Most prop planes, like a Q400, don’t fly above 25,000 feet. In a normal descent, they go from 25,000 feet to below 20,000 feet in 2-3 minutes. In an emergency descent, this is done much faster. By the time passengers would have put on the oxygen masks and tried to activate the oxygen flow, there would be no oxygen supplied, because the plane would be below 20,000 feet already.

    As you can see, there is really no necessity for supplemental oxygen masks for passengers on a Q400. Worse: Oxygen is highly explosive. So you want to carry as little oxygen as possible on a plane.

    So Porter is not only “not required” to have oxygen masks, it would be unwise to have them.

  2. viking737

    October 24, 2015 at 1:12 pm

    Oxygen masks should not be used anyway during smoke events. They do not provide pure O2, but O2 mixed with cabin air.

  3. Centurion

    October 24, 2015 at 9:27 pm

    Wow I love flyertalk members!

  4. bricksoft

    October 26, 2015 at 1:32 am

    Wow. Just Wow.

    The media tend to misreport and sensationalise aviation incidents , But this one is so far off target.

    The comment from “passenger rights advocate Gabor Lukacs” saying all commercial flights should have oxygen masks suggests to me that he should learn what he is talking about before he starts advocating for passengers.
    Oxygen masks are not needed at low altitudes. Extra oxygen is the last thing needed if there is a possibility of fire.

    Crew advising pax to use a makeshift smoke filter of the seat back material was good thinking

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