Their Delta Airlines flight had almost made it from Detroit to Denver when smoke began to fill the cabin, according to reports.

Things were scary and chaotic. Passengers evacuated quickly--out the emergency exits, onto the plane's wing, and down inflatable slides.

Afterward, the airline explained it had all been caused by hydraulic fluid dripping onto the plane's auxiliary engine, and that injuries were limited to "smoke inhalation and sprains," according to The Washington Post.

That's great of course, but in the moment, as it all happened, nobody could have known for sure that everyone would make it off okay.

And that's why photos and video of the passengers immediately afterward raised the ire of flight attendants and other airline employees around the world.

The problem? Many of the passengers were holding their carry on luggage.

That meant they had to have stopped to gather it all during the emergency evacuation. At the very least, they would have moved a bit more slowly than they otherwise would have, in order to carry it.

In the hours that followed, I heard from quite a few airline employees, and I saw what others were posting on social media. Their reactions ranged from annoyance to extreme anger at the photos, and frustrating that some passengers don't listen to or follow their safety instructions. 

So, as a public service, here's what some of them asked me to pass along. (I'm including only the names and affiliations of airline employees who explicitly told me I could do so.)

1. Tom Moore, retired Southwest Airlines operations, training and cargo supervisor.

"Flight crews are trained to evacuating in a 90 seconds minimum. ... Every second counts and I might keep someone else from surviving by grabbing my carry on."

2. Thomas M. Harrison Jr., light attendant, American Airlines

"It angers me. ... They may not care about their safety, but how dare they put others' lives ... in danger. This is very upsetting."

3. Kimberley Walters Hefner, Retired flight attendant, Southwest Airlines

"Passengers are asked to leave all luggage and exit the aircraft. They are putting their lives at risk taking baggage with them."

4. Retired flight attendant with 44 years experience

"What's more important, your bags or your life? ... I can't understand passengers and their carry on luggage. I'm retired. It's the one thing I will not miss."

5. Flight attendant, JetBlue

"I think all flight attendants will agree this is not OK. Time is of the essence, every second is valuable when it comes to an emergency evacuation. Those carry-on bags are just simple things. We are trying to save lives. "

6. Flight Attendant, American Airlines

"It's not only your life you're putting at risk but other people you're slowing the process somebody else might not make it out because you made it out with your bag? Unacceptable!"

7. Flight attendant

"Looks like they don't appreciate their lives enough to leave those carry ons behind. They lost valuable seconds. In the airline industry every second counts."

8. Flight attendant, American Airlines

"I've been saying this for years. we need an announcement telling everyone there will be $5,000 fine for every bag found out on the tarmac after an evacuation."

9. Flight attendant, retired

"It pisses me off. Those few seconds can impact many lives! Carry-ons are not important in an evacuation!!! People become stupid on airplanes. "

10. Flight attendant, 36 years experience

"The time it takes to retrieve luggage is time wasted. ... The interior of an aircraft is highly toxic during a fire. [Moving quickly] ... is virtually impossible with passengers taking carryon luggage."

11. Flight attendant, 42 years experience

"Anyone bringing anything with them is not only jeopardizing their safety but the safety of those around them. Doors get blocked, slides get jammed, people are running with no shoes tripping through glass. ... You can't get away from any plane on fire fast enough with a 50-pound bag on your back."

A Delta spokesperson, Kate Modolo, provided this statement on the incident:

"We apologize for the concern this event has caused. The safety of Delta's customers and crew is our top priority.

After smoke entered the cabin upon Flight 1854's landing, the crew determined that an emergency evacuation was necessary, and they quickly and professionally directed passengers off the aircraft through the various exits onboard.

We are additionally thankful to customers who followed the professional direction of our crews in support of themselves and fellow passengers."

But, I'm also told that Delta's protocol for flight attendants would definitely include leaving bags behind. It just seems in this case, some passengers took them anyway.

Published on: May 10, 2018
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