Thursday, April 19, 2018

Misused Masks Highlight Challenges of Preparing Passengers for Emergencies: Southwest Flight 1380 accident shows airlines still struggle to get passengers to follow instructions and listen to safety briefings

In this photo from Marty Martinez, Mr. Martinez, left, appears with other passengers after a jet engine blew out on the Southwest Flight 1380 plane. Some passengers improperly used their oxygen masks.

The Wall Street Journal 
By Patrick McGroarty and  Doug Cameron
April 19, 2018 5:27 p.m. ET

Airlines and regulators have spent years refining the procedures they count on to save lives during accidents like the engine failure that killed a Southwest Airlines Co. passenger this week.

One step continues to confound them: getting passengers to do as they are told.

Some passengers aboard Southwest Flight 1380 didn’t place oxygen masks over both their mouth and nose after engine fragments broke a window on the plane at more than 30,000 feet on Tuesday, according to images from the flight and passengers on board.

Flight attendants began helping passengers use masks as they were instructed in a preflight safety briefing, after donning their own portable breathing apparatuses, said passenger Kristopher Johnson. Another passenger, Marty Martinez, said he didn’t put the mask over his mouth and nose.

“That 30-second demo of how to put the mask on properly is such an insignificant portion of most of our lives,” said Mr. Martinez, who used the moments after the window burst to open his laptop and purchase a Wi-Fi connection to message his family, before putting his mask over just his mouth.

“Having to use the oxygen mask for the first time amid all that chaos and the turbulence and fact that there was huge hole out the side of the window made it very difficult,” he said.

Airlines are loath to criticize their customers for their behavior during unexpected and dangerous situations. But carriers and aviation safety bodies have said emergency landings and evacuations can be complicated by passengers who don’t follow steps laid out in boarding announcements and safety pamphlets.

“We were surprised when we saw the pictures,” said Jonathan Jasper, manager of cabin safety at the International Air Transport Association.

The trade group was hosting a safety conference in Montreal when news of the Southwest accident emerged, and Mr. Jasper said within 20 minutes, airlines were discussing the passenger behavior on an internal online forum.

He said he has been in contact with Southwest, and expects the industry to pick up on it in future staff training.

Southwest didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday, but it has praised the actions of passengers and crew.

Kristopher Johnson, a passenger on Flight 1380, said his training as an Army staff sergeant and amateur scuba diver had taught him to cinch the oxygen mask snugly over both his nose and mouth.

But he noticed the young woman sitting next to him in the front row struggling to pull it over her head and pumping its plastic air bag with her hands. He gently pushed her arms down to her sides. “It works, it works!” he told her, “Just breathe, breathe, breathe.”

Airlines have tried different ways to get passengers to listen to preflight announcements. Celebrities and exotic locations have become common features of the videos and demonstrations airlines use to convey mandatory safety instructions for seat belts, oxygen masks and emergency exits. Air New Zealand Ltd. commissioned a “Lord of the Rings” themed video it called “The Most Epic Safety Video Ever Made.”

But after years of few major airborne accidents in the U.S., this week’s incident puts pressure on them to better convey that information to passengers anticipating an uneventful flight, said Bobby Laurie, a former flight attendant for JetBlue Airways Corp. who hosts a television show about air travel.

“It’s about personal responsibility and situational awareness,” Mr. Laurie said. “Passengers should be thinking, ‘Hey this hasn’t happened in long time and probably won’t today but it could so let me familiarize myself with what I need to do in case it does happen.”

Airlines and regulators have considered preboarding announcements and central locking systems that would prevent passengers from trying to retrieve their bags from overhead bins in an emergency. IATA’s Mr. Jasper said neither is believed to improve safety.

The National Transportation Safety Board has identified four incidents in recent years where passengers grabbing bags hampered an evacuation. American Airlines Group Inc. said passengers grabbing carry-on bags slowed the evacuation of a jet forced to make an emergency landing at Chicago O’Hare International Airport in October 2016 following an engine explosion and fire.

“As consistently seen elsewhere during evacuations, our crew was forced to confront a visible minority of passengers who ignored instructions to leave luggage behind,” the airline said in a letter to the NTSB the next year.

Industry observers said the latest Southwest incident showed the need for more work to address passenger behavior in an emergency.

“Airlines and regulators should have a dialogue and come to an agreement on the best way to ensure compliance with cabin safety instructions,” said Mary Kirby, founder of Runway Girl Network, an online publication.

An IATA-backed study last year by researchers at Coventry University in the U.K. found 73% of passengers surveyed would grab their bag before evacuating a plane. While this fell to 38% if told there was a fire, almost half of the passengers interviewed said they would still take hand baggage containing valuables such as a passport or cellphone.

Original article can be found here ➤


  1. All the passengers in the photo visibly wearing the masks incorrectly, also look under-30. I would be interested to see if there was any variation by age.


  2. “That 30-second demo of how to put the mask on properly is such an insignificant portion of most of our lives,”

    Could be the end of your life if not done correctly.

  3. Flying or any task requiring a great deal of situational awareness will never be for the masses. Unless they are locked in containers and treated as cargo. If something as simple as putting a mask on escapes them and they ignore the most basic safety to grab their possessions disregarding orders and the safety of others drastic measures need to be taken. Or some kind of licensing in place to be allowed to fly. You can't fix stupid though...

  4. It isn't even just listening to the briefing, there is a picture right there on the masks showing the proper way to wear them. I can see it clearly on the photo. I guess these millennials couldn't see it right in front of their own faces because they were too busy taking selfes.

  5. Darwinism at work. If you can't figure out how an oxygen mask is supposed to be used, even with a demonstration, it's probably a sign that your DNA needs to be removed from mankind's gene pool.

  6. " ...Mr. Martinez, who used the moments after the window burst to open his laptop and purchase a Wi-Fi connection to message his family, before putting his mask over just his mouth."
    Are you f---ing kidding me? He was able, in an emergency, to ignore an oxygen mask dangling in front of his face and perform several computer functions???!! What kind of video could you possibly make that could counteract that degree of stupidity?

  7. Airlines should start the preflight safety briefing with realism. “Ladies and gentlemen, it is unlikely but entirely possible that you will burn to death, suffocate in smoke, drown with your life jacket on inside a sinking cabin, die of hypoxia, fly into the ceiling in severe turbulence breaking your neck, or have to drag yourself out of this plane because both of your legs are shattered. Please listen to the following briefing to improve your odds.”

  8. Flying is awesome. Unique. Only offered for the last 100 years to humans.
    Odds are no creature bigger than a microbe ever ventured above 35000 ft in the billions years history of this planet. Yet imbeciles with the intelligence of a microbe like mentioned in the article don't even have the ability to grasp this fact and realize how tricky it is to fly and how careful you have to be.
    They don't deserve this privilege. They can take the bus.
    The woman who died probably never wore her seatbelt either which would have prevented her being sucked out.
    I have no respect for idiots who hurt themselves in high turbulence after being told to put their seatbelts on, or who ignore the constraints of flying at altitudes no other creature can reach at speeds unimaginable until a few decades ago.
    I hope plane tickets will cost 100 times what they are today soon so only the chosen few get this privilege and appreciate flying for what it is...

  9. The guy next to Mr. Martinez doesn't even have the straps on. Might be uncomfortable with his earbuds. Priorities...

  10. Take it from a certified flight instructor: It doesn't work to show people how to put on a mask if you don't actually have them put on the mask themselves.