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NTSB Urges FAA to Explore Fines for Passengers Toting Bags During Evacuations

The NTSB has concluded its investigation into AA383. The Miami-bound plane was evacuated after it caught fire before departure from ORD in October 2016. According to the crew, some passengers insisted on taking their luggage with them before disembarking, a point that hampered the evacuation process.

The safe evacuation of American Airlines Flight 383 on October 28th, 2016, was hampered by multiple human and technical factors. One of these, the Chicago-Sun Times reports, was passengers’ apparent refusal to leave their carry-on luggage behind prior to exiting the burning aircraft. While the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has now concluded its official investigation into the incident, it has revealed that it is exploring a suggestion made by a member of cabin crew to a federal investigator: to issue fines to those who bring their luggage with them during an emergency evacuation.

The Miami-bound flight caught fire just as it was taking off from Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport (ORD) and the ensuing evacuation of the plane has widely been described chaotic. The transcripts of interviews conducted by the NTSB with cabin crew who witnessed the incident record that some passengers were insistent upon bringing their luggage with them prior to exiting the plane.

In one recorded incident, a member of the crew said that a passenger was seen “running up the right aisle with a bag over his head” and when staff attempted to take the man’s luggage away, the passenger insisted, “I’m taking it with me.”

As part of its recommendations to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the NTSB is encouraging the administration to “measure and evaluate the effects of carry-on baggage on passenger deplaning times and safety during an emergency evacuation”. Robert Sumwalt, the NTSB’s chairman, offered his support for the idea, but a spokesperson for the FAA commented only to say, “We will review and consider the NTSB’s recommendations and findings.”

However, Sara Nelson, the International President of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, offered her comments, saying, “Apparently the threat of death by incineration fueled by thousands of gallons of jet fuel isn’t enough of a deterrent to stop passengers from taking time to grab carry-on bags during an emergency evacuation. The FAA should use existing laws to crack down on passengers endangering themselves and countless others as they put computers, cosmetics and clothing ahead of human life.”

[Image: Goodfellow Air Force Base]

Comments are Closed.
Boggie Dog February 28, 2018

Perhaps if airlines stopped charging for checked baggage there wouldn't be so much of it in the cabin. I carry on a small bag that fits under the seat. It contains a glucose meter and meds. It's going where I go fine or no fine.

1StRanger February 23, 2018

The potential problem with such penalties is the "edge cases". If a passenger has a small handbag with some life-critical items (those could be medication that has to be taken every hour, some life-or-death family documents, or even family life-savings), and that passenger carries that bag with him/her everywhere, even while stepping away to the restroom, would it be a violation for that person to continue carrying it while evacuating? Also, as commented above, - are all FAs always adequate? The answer is simple (and backed by statistics): No. As with the rest of us, - FAs are not all infallible. Some FAs like flexing their "Just-because-I-am-in-charge" muscle. Without implying anything about the incident in Chicago, I wouldn't be surprised that some FA might stand on principle and forbid a passenger to leave the plane during an evacuation with the handbag I mentioned above, just because of the rules. As always in such cases the biggest issue is: where should one draw the line? One might think that whatever is in the overhead compartments is a definite no. Right? But what about the situation when an overzealous FA pried that life-crucial handbag from the bulkhead-seat passenger (under the penalty of being removed from the plane) and placed it in the overhead compartment, promising to return it "as soon as we are in the air"? I don't know how to protect such a passenger from FA's abuse. So, for those categorically demanding a severe universal punishment: "Judge not, that ye be not judged."

wedgeclose February 23, 2018

Any person who exits with a carryon in an emergency evacuation should be arrested and charged with attempted murder and then NEVER ALLOWED ON BOARD ANY COMMERCIAL FLIGHT IN THE WORLD!

eng3 February 23, 2018

I don't think this would hold up in court. Anyone can argue that one may not be thinking logically during an evacuation and is in an altered state of mind. Also, some logic needs to be applied. I agree, going into the overhead bin to get a big will definitely block people. What about if you grab your laptop bag from under your seat? Or even further, what if you have a purse on your shoulder? You're expected to stop evacuating and take it off? In the article, a guy ran up the aisle with his bag and the FA argued with him to put down the bag. At this point he already made it up the aisle. How much did the FA slow down the evacuation by arguing with the guy versus just letting him out the door?

The_Bouncer February 22, 2018

Being put on a no-fly list may be a better deterrent.