Don’t take your luggage when evacuating an airplane!

Earlier this week Emirates flight EK521 made headlines with its crash landing and subsequent explosion. Thankfully all crew and passengers were off of the plane before it exploded, due in large part to the heroic efforts of the crew in landing and evacuating the passengers. In photos of the escape, something stuck out to me but I couldn’t put my finger on it. Then I realized: they are holding bags as they slide to safety. Then I saw a video where people are getting bags out of the overhead bin while they evacuate the plane, all while crew is yelling to, “Leave everything! Jump!”

Now, I’m not going to go on a rant here, although it’s awfully tempting. (Bobby Laurie did that over on Huff Po better than I ever could.) Is your suitcase more important that someone’s life? Nope, not even close. Even if there was time to grab things, your bag could puncture the slide, endangering everyone who was waiting to evacuate. Everyone got off safely, but then the plane freaking exploded. OMG. I get it–abandoning your stuff on a plane, not knowing if you’re going to get it back, is not awesome. But it’s not worth risking lives over.

While plane crashes are not pleasant to think about, here are a few tips to make leaving your bag more palatable, should the worst happen.

Minimize the risk. About five years ago my purse was stolen out of my car, with four credit cards, to debit cards, and irreplaceable jewelry inside. While that was not actually on a trip, it made me reevaluate the things I keep with me. Ever since then I’ve been careful not to travel with more hard-to-replace items than I have to. For example, I only take one credit card and one debit card and I don’t take any irreplaceable jewelry. I also have copies of all of my cards, my driver’s license, and my passport in a safe at home and in a secure cloud storage service.

Keep your phone on you. On planes I always keep my phone in my hand or pocket. I will often use it throughout a flight for work, but keep it close even if not working. If I don’t have pockets in my clothes, I will sometimes (subtly) slide it into my bra strap. In the event of an emergency I won’t have to worry about digging through my bag to grab it.

Medications are different. If  you have to travel with critical medication, such as insulin, I recommend keeping a small bag under the seat in front of you with your medications. That way if you have to act fast it is easy to grab.

Readers, do you have tips to add? Do you ever think about what you would do in a flight emergency?


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  1. Funny enough, just couple of days back I was reading a blogger post about mistake not to grab your personal belongings in a case of an emergency plane evacuation.

    …and yes I saw that video and was thinking about some passengers grabbing their carry-ons.

  2. I know the odds of being in this situation are so slim, but I wonder what happens in these events. My concern is that I am now in a place where I have no ID or money. I suppose I could wear a small pouch to keep my passport/ID/money/credit cards in. I’m not saying I would be one of those who tries to bring luggage, but if this happens and I have nothing with me, how difficult is it to navigate from that type of event?

  3. Putting more bags into cargo holds could lessen the problem, but airlines want to decrease the load of each plane to save on fuel, and passengers don’t want to pay those fees or leave things at home. It turns out that, for both passengers and airlines, when it’s your money or your life, money wins.

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