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Insider Series: What Do Passengers Need to Know About Safety?

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Editor’s note about our Insider Series: TPG Contributor Carrie A. Trey shares some of her most interesting stories and perspectives in this Insider Series article. Please remember that Ms. Trey’s opinions and statements here are her own, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the TPG Team. Disclaimer out of the way, please enjoy this installment from Carrie A. Trey!

It’s part of a flight attendant’s job to stand up on your flight and run through a lot of boring safety info you’ve surely heard before, but they don’t do this for their health—they do it for yours. As part of our Insider Series, TPG Contributor (and working flight attendant) Carrie A. Trey answers an important question: What do passengers really need to know about safety?

Paying attention to that in-flight safety demo can safe your life. Seriously. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.
Paying attention to that onboard safety demo can safe your life. No, seriously. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

Before every flight, your crew diligently stands up before you and does a safety demonstration, or smiles while a video is displayed. Many of you see this as a good time to listen to music, do crossword puzzles, talk to each other and generally do anything you can think of besides pay attention to this mundane drill that you’ve heard/seen a thousand times.

Sure, you think you know this drill by heart, but how much of any given in-flight safety demo do you actually understand? That is, if I asked you to walk me through the steps of opening the door at 3R, could you? Do you know exactly what to do before you put on your own oxygen mask, or how to inflate your life vest?

Any of this information could ultimately save your life, which is why it’s important to pay close attention to that deceptively dull safety demo. Just as in the case of a natural disaster, you’ll want to be prepared—because if there’s an emergency on your flight, chances are it’ll happen in a split second.

Even after your plane has landed, things could still go awry—stay alert, and pay attention. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.
Even after your plane has landed, things could still go awry—so be sure to pay attention to safety instructions. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

For instance, the passengers on Air France 358 barely had time to register that their pilot had overshot a runway at YYZ when the aircraft took a 92-mile-an-hour slide into a nearby ravine, stopped and burst into fuselage-fueled flame; fortunately, everyone aboard was evacuated in less than 90 seconds. When Delta 1086 was making a routine landing at LGA, it suddenly veered off the runway, finally stopping with its nose peeking over Flushing Bay—at which point its passengers had to move through their shock, follow directions and evacuate as fast as humanly possible.

An important part of any flight attendant’s job is making sure the plane is safe for evacuations like these—and that means asking you, as passengers, to do all sorts of things while you’re at your seats. I find it frustrating—and even foolish—when passengers ignore these requests, or even question my motives. So please, allow me to explain why we ask you to:

Put your seat up. In an evacuation, a seat that is reclined even a little bit can be a major obstacle for the people in the row behind you. If you’re in the last row, there’s often emergency equipment stored behind your seat, which means that your failure to comply with the rules is now preventing me from reaching a fire extinguisher, a megaphone, an oxygen tank or something else I might need in order to save your life.

Put away your seat-back or personal entertainment screen. In an evacuation, a screen that isn’t retracted will act as an obstacle to your egress. And trust me, if the plane is being evacuated, you’re not going to want anything in your way.

Keep your carry-on luggage out of the aisle. We’re not telling you to put it away because we want to be mean, but because it could be a tripping hazard if you had to leave the aircraft quickly.

If you already know how to use a seatbelt, then please—use your seatbelt. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.
If you already know how to use a seatbelt, then please—use your seatbelt. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

Fasten your seatbelt. When in flight, we ask you to keep your seatbelt fastened because sometimes, out of nowhere, the plane can hit clear air turbulence. When taxiing, we ask you to keep your seatbelt fastened in case we have to come to a sudden halt on the ground. A few years back, while taxiing after landing, one of my passengers waved me off when I asked her to keep her seatbelt fastened until we came to a complete stop. Not a second later, the pilots slammed on the brakes to avoid a baggage trolley that had swerved in front of the plane, and this woman went face first into the bulkhead, breaking her nose—an injury that would have been easily prevented by her seatbelt. Take better care of your own face by keeping your seatbelt buckled.

Switch off your electronic devices. These days, you’re often permitted to use your smartphones, tablets, etc. in airplane mode during taxi, take-off and landing, but since these are the exact times when most airplane accidents occur, we generally prefer that you remain aware of your surroundings rather than buried in Candy Crush or Facebook.

Listen. If a pilot feels the airplane and its passengers are in imminent danger, an evacuation will be initiated, and the crew will start shouting commands—and trust me, you’ll want to hear them! Every airline’s commands differ a bit, but they all include something about leaving personal items behind.

As you’ll see in the above video, the emergency evacuation of Iberia 6250 back in 2007 took far more than the flight crew’s required 90 seconds. Why? Because the passengers onboard were more focused on grabbing at their luggage than actually evacuating, demonstrating a total disregard for the crew’s instructions and the safety of those around them.

Please, if you’re ever in this situation, bid adieu to your Louis Vuitton, run to the nearest exit and get off the plane!

There are a lot of things about safety that passengers don’t know, and that’s okay—that’s why we flight attendants go through rigorous training before we receive our wings, then continue our training each year we’re on the job. It’s our duty to protect you while you’re aboard, so please take a little time to familiarize yourself with your environment, and do your best to help us keep the airplane a safe place for everyone—including yourself.

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