Are Airlines Doing Enough To Stop Passengers Evacuating With Luggage?

In the last six months, Airlines have taken extra steps to address the problem of passengers stopping to take hand luggage with them as they evacuate a plane. But with recent photos showing passengers continuing to take hang luggage when evacuating a plane, are airlines doing enough?

Are airlines doing enough to education  Source: Sourav Mishra via Pexels

Why are passengers forbidden to remove luggage?

Earlier this year, a Russian Aeroflot aircraft crashed on the runway in Moscow. Fuel and sparks mixed causing a fire in the tail. Passengers evacuating from the front of the aircraft took the time to open the bins and remove their luggage, some of which was rather large and bulky. This caused passengers in the back of the plane to become trapped, potentially increasing the death toll unnecessarily.

Hence, the very idea of passengers accessing luggage during an evacuation is a very serious issue. Hand luggage can also cause tears and rips to the evacuation slides and rafts which, if unusable, could cost many more lives.

A recent incident involving a Cayman Airways 737-300 led to an emergency landing and the entire aircraft being evacuated via slides. Passengers are seen carrying luggage away from the plane which, fortunately, was not on fire. The fact remains, however, that the plane was not evacuated as quickly as it could have been because passengers took the time to bring luggage.

What are airlines doing so far?

Japan Airlines has been one of the first airlines to actually include a segment on their onboard safety video highlighting the dangers of stopping to carry baggage. It is rather graphic and shows exactly what can happen during an evacuation.

Japan Airlines features rather graphic images of passengers panicking during an emergency. Photo: Japan Airlines

On a recent Brussels Airlines flight, the cabin crew spoke directly about hand luggage multiple times during the in-person safety briefing.

What could airlines do?

But is this enough? As we mentioned with the Cayman Airways flight, passengers seem to still not have learned to follow instructions. So what can airlines do to avoid this problem?

Perhaps passengers can better understand the consequences of their actions, such as fines or even manslaughter charges, if they are proven to be the cause of an evacuation delay.

One member of the Simple Flying team, Mark Finlay, suggests “How about locking the overhead bins once the flight takes off and then unlocking them at the gate on arrival? I know people need to get things from their bag, but if they knew once the plane took off it wasn’t possible they could sort themselves out beforehand.”

What do you think? Are airlines doing enough? Or should they take more drastic action to prevent passengers from removing hand luggage? Let us know in the comments.

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Mazlan Bakker

There’s a lot more airlines can do to avoid this. However since loyalty program has become part of the industry, basic safety requirements have been ignored. In my opinion to register the importance on how damaging it can be to retrieve bags during an emergency, it may need to be introduced during the booking process or checking process. What I mean is that a system needs to be placed at check in or online booking where the procedure is placed and that no one can by pass it by just ticking the boxes. The system needs to be timed so… Read more »

Ayub Pathan

I think regulation should come from governments and aviation bodies only then can we get passengers to cooperate and behave responsibly on an aircraft.

The caa for example made it compulsory for liquid to be banned onboard through government legislation and it has become a second nature for passengers flying from UK to avoid carrying liquid on a aircraft.

Jon DeGeorge

I like this! (but it should require retyping a sworn statement e.g. “I declare UNDER PENALTY OF PERJURY that in the event of an emergency evacuation, I will leave my baggage behind. I understand that evacuating with my baggage violates aviation regulations, could have FATAL consequences to others, and that I will be held legally responsible and liable for my actions if this occurs.” or explicitly clicking OK on a very prominent full-page interstitial that states the above, otherwise it would go the way of “I agree to the terms of service bork bork bork mandatory arbitration bork bork”.) If… Read more »


Have thought for a long time that bins, remotely lockable from the flight deck, can be the only answer. That said, however, there will always be the passengers “in the know” who wait until they are in the air then download their hand luggage to the seat area. Can you also imagine the chaos as some idiot(s) battle with the bins to break them open ???

steve Zumach

luggage should not be carried onto the plane, it should be placed in the cargo hold. Boarding and un-boarding would be so much quicker if they would eliminate the carry on bags.


I think JAL has it right. Get this covered more in the media and hopefully passengers will take care of the ones stopping to get their baggage. Just knock the idiots out of the way if you’re in the situation.


I endorse a holistic approach (now we are done with the spin) Ergo, locking the bins would be item 1 (and tell the Pax of course s, a Red and green light on each bin and a training aspect that it goes lock on landing and not be released until the captain says so and the Red light goes out and green comes on!) More so in flight bins only unlock per request. So they lock from cabin close up to at the gate Emergency the message, BINS ARE NOW LOCKED – THEY WILL NOT OPEN UP. Enhance that with… Read more »

Jon DeGeorge

An idea: Lock the bins during takeoff and landing. (unlock them at cruise altitude.)
Lock them at the slightest hint of an emergency.

Tom Vuong

There is a lot of more ways, but people keep wasting their times getting their luggage out during very serious emergency landings or crash which delay more time and more people including the person who carries the suitcase out will die of toxic smoke inhalation or burn by fire. I think they should allow the check-in luggage at a more lower cost than the carry on luggage, plus showing out the graphical pictures of what happen when you delay the evacuation is another good idea. I have been traveling on a plane for a long time since when I got… Read more »


Carry-on should only be allowed to be stored in overhead bins, which should be lockable from the flight deck or flight attendants’ station. (Perhaps small personal items such as handbags/purses (weighing less than 1kg) could be exempt as, on long haul, medicines etc may need easy access). Bins should be locked during take-off and landing (perhaps linked to the “Fasten Seatbelts” sign) and prior to Emergency or Turbulence warnings. Airlines need to be able to accommodate all bags carried on to the aircraft in bins and have the facility efficiently to remove excess bags to the hold after boarding. None… Read more »


have a built in system allowing the flight attendant to lock the bins.

Andrew Heenan

Central locking of the overhead bins would be easy, cheap, and non-negotiable. Can’t see why this hasn’t happened already.

geoff casson medhurst

I agree with the suggestion that the overhead lockers should be centrally locked. Linking this function with the seat belts fasten sign would ensure the lockers remained shut at the captains discretion. Enforcing this lock down for the duration of the whole flight might an over kill however.

Capt. Omar Barayan

I strongly believe that locking the overhead compartments is the answer, however the locking should be tied up with the escape slide activation.

Capt. Omar Barayan

Carrying of hand luggages during aircraft evacuation.

Benjamin Mehta

I think the locking overhead locker is a really good idea. And if it was used on normal day to day flights people would be used to it – if an emergency occurs.


Perfect suggestion, to have the overhead lockers, locked just before take off and unlocked once the seat belt signs have been turned off. Seat belt signs on before landing, overhead lockers locked until the engines and seat belt signs are turned off at the gate

Terry Buckland

Refer to the Roy al Aeronautical Society on ‘The evacuation of passenger aircraft’. This is discussed. AND there will be more in the second edition.

Terry Buckland, Chairman Flight Operations Group, RAeS.

Neil Gunnell, Secretary Flight Operations Group
Gregory Harig

Maybe the airlines should investigate a system whereby the overhead bins automatically lock in the event of an emergency landing so that passengers can’t try to remove luggage. Once the plane is deemed safe, the bins can be unlocked by the crew and bags removed. Might be a little complicated, but it also might save lives endangered by selfish people.

Carlos Matallana

Maybe air crew should have the ability to lock all bins automatically. Once the emergency arises they lock them all from the galley. I do not know if this makes sense.


This is one thing that has me worried always. No regulator or operator seems to be doing enough about this problem. Pax need to be educated on this aspect, if possible, using graphic details. I prefer systems which could be lock the bins centrally before take off , opened during climb out, closed again during descent and opened until after parking at the gate. Equally concerning is the amount of liquor served on flights to pax…. how would they react during an evacuation is anybody’s guess..!


Airlines have made the problem worse, by charging excessive amounts for checked luggage. Now passengers are bringing on board large cases, which can do a lot of damage. Solution is to only allow small hand luggage on board, and one free checked bag. It will speed up on-boarding/off-boarding also.