The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is asking federal aviation regulators to consider what could be done to discourage commercial airline passengers from grabbing their carry-on bags in the event of fire or other runway emergency.
The NTSB recently released its final report on American Airlines Flight 383, which experienced an “uncontained failure of the right engine and subsequent fire” during takeoff at Chicago O’Hare International Airport on Oct. 28, 2016.
While the NTSB determined the causes of the engine fire — microscopic fatigue cracks in a turbine disk that broke apart and pierced a fuel line and tank – the agency found that emergency evacuation efforts were hampered by passengers refusing to leave their belongings onboard, even in defiance of crew who tried to stop them.
According to the Associated Press, flames were visible to many passengers aboard the Miami-bound airplane and smoke was pouring into the cabin, but several passengers refused to evacuate without first retrieving their carry-on bags from overhead bins and other parts of the aircraft. One person was seriously injured in the process and 20 others suffered minor injuries. The outcome could have been disastrous for all or most people aboard the plane had the fire resulted in an explosion of the fuel-laden aircraft.
The issue also came up weeks prior to the O’Hare incident when in January 2016 a United Airlines flight slid from the runway at Rick Husband International Airport in Amarillo, Texas. In that incident, the captain and crew members told passengers to leave their bags behind, but several people argued and took their belongings anyway.
In light of these findings, which were based on NTSB interviews of airline crew and passengers, the NTSB asked the Federal Aviation Administration to “measure and evaluate the effects of carry-on baggage on passenger deplaning times and safety during an emergency evacuation,” the AP reported.
The NTSB also wants the FAA to “identify effective countermeasures to reduce any determined risks, and implement the countermeasures.”
One possible solution could be fining passengers who refuse to follow the instructions of the crew during an evacuation. NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt told the Chicago Sun-Times that the option of fining passengers should is worth looking into. Ultimately, it will be up to the FAA to decide.
According to the AP, Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants, said 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.”