WestJet collision shows passenger bag grab still a concern

January 08, 2018
fire bags evac
The Sunwing plane on fire. Photo: Facebook/Connie Carsons

A collision between two aircraft  at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport on Friday has again raised concerns about passengers stopping to grab cabin bags  during evacuations.

A WestJet flight that had just arrived from the Mexican resort of Cancun with 174 passengers and crew on board was waiting  to go to a gate when an empty Sunwing plane under tow backed into it.

The wing of the Sunwing plane caught fire, prompting an evacuation of the WestJet  Boeing 737-800 using emergency slides. A first response  worker was injured in the incident.

WestJet later tweeted that all 168 passengers and six crew were accounted for and safely in the terminal.

The fire on the Sunwing plane was caught on video by a passenger on the WestJet aircraft, Gustavo Lobo.

But passengers reported the evacuation process was slowed by passengers who insisted taking their baggage with them.

There were also reports of confusion and a lack of direction after the evacuation and Canada’s Transportation Safety Board is now investigating the incident.

Passengers who grab bags significantly slow down an evacuation beyond the time for which aircraft are certified:  90 seconds with half the exits out of use.

As numerous experts have warned, people who stop to grab their cabin luggage not only put their lives at risk but those of their fellow passengers.

Yet this is the latest in a string of incidents here passengers have stopped to grab bags.

In October 2016, American Airlines passengers evacuating a burning Boeing 767 risked their lives and those of others by stopping to collect carry-on baggage.

READ: Grab for bags could cause airfares to triple.

Two months earlier, passengers evacuating an Emirates Boeing 777 which crash-landed and caught fire in Dubai were filmed evacuating with their cabin baggage.

The British Civil Aviation Authority issued a blunt warning to airlines in 2015 to urgently review safety instructions to stop passengers taking their luggage with them in an emergency evacuation after problems during a fire on a British Airways 777 at Gatwick.

bags planes evacuate
Passengers evacuating the BA plane with bags.


Other incidents where passengers have insisted on taking their carry-on baggage off.

– January 15, 2009. US Airways Flight 1549 ditches in the Hudson River in New York City. During the emergency evacuation a passenger takes his suit bag with him, As the A320 struggles to stay afloat you can see him out on the wing, the carry-on slung over his shoulder;

– July 6, 2013. Asiana Flight 214 lands short of the runway at San Francisco International Airport, semi-cartwheeling to a near-catastrophic stop. The Boeing 777 catches fire. Some of the passengers fleeing the Triple Seven rescue their carry-on luggage, trundling across the tarmac to safety;

– March 5, 2015. Delta Airlines DL1086 an MD-88 overuns at New York – La Guardia Airport on landing in snow conditions. No serious injuries were reported among the 125 passengers and 5 crew members but passengers carried their baggage away from the plane.