Airfares would have to triple if authorities were to re-regulate the passenger capacity of planes based on the actual speed of emergency evacuations.
Planes are certified to be evacuated in just 90 seconds but it is taking at least three times longer due to passengers refusing to follow instructions to leave their bags behind.
This was highlighted once again on Tuesday when many passengers took their carry-on baggage with them during an emergency evacuation of Delta Air Lines flight DL1854 at Denver Airport.
DL 1854, an MD90, was a flight from Detroit and passengers reported smoke during the taxi in after landing shortly after 8 pm.
In a statement Delta said:
After arrival in Denver and during taxi to the gate, Delta Flight 1854 from Detroit to Denver stopped on a taxiway where customers deplaned via slides and over-wing exits due to an observance of smoke in the cabin. Airport response vehicles met the aircraft out of an abundance of caution and customers were transported to the terminal via buses. The safety of Delta’s customers and crew is our top priority and we apologize for the concern this situation has caused.
Passengers Rachel Naftel tweeted: “Scariest thing. After landing fumes through the vents and fire. Feeling faint and sick. Baby was last one out!!! Emergency evacuation. Scariest thing ever.”
Passengers are risking their lives, and those of fellow passengers, with the obsession of taking cabin baggage with them in an emergency.
In the evacuation certification tests, the “passengers” are aircraft manufacturer employees who know the drill and they have no baggage.
If regulators were to re-certify the long-range Boeing 777 to the reality of what actually happens, the 550 exit limit aircraft would have to be recertified to just 183 passengers – half its typical load.
But for smaller aircraft such as the widely used A320 – and Boeing 737 – which has an exit limit of 195 and a typical configuration of 180 mostly economy passengers the impact would be devastating with a new limit of just 65.
That would mean a tripling of airfares to make the aircraft economically viable.
The impact on the industry and the world economy would be devastating but something needs to be done before hundreds die in an aircraft evacuation.
The airline industry needs to take decisive action, perhaps by locking overhead lockers for takeoff and landing, to prevent passengers taking their baggage with them after a plane crash.
Or an extreme measure would be to ban carry-on baggage other than a small bag such as a backpack.
It is sobering to consider that it quite often takes 40 minutes to board a plane because of passenger/ baggage congestion.
Not only does taking your baggage dramatically slow the process, there’s a distinct possibility that the bags with protruding metal parts will snag and then deflate the escape slides — rendering them useless.
And in the scramble to get overstuffed bags out of lockers, passengers may be knocked out and the aisle blocked for precious seconds.
There is also the very real prospect of passengers jumping on to the escape slide with their bag and knocking themselves or another passenger out, or even killing them.
Tragically, it will take a disastrous evacuation with multiple deaths for the industry to act