steffanie rivers

Steffanie Rivers

*Air travel is like childbirth: millions of people do it successfully, so others rarely consider how dangerous it can be until something goes wrong. Something went wrong Friday at Chicago’s O’Hare airport. It happened right before takeoff on American Airlines flight 383 to Miami.

I was working a flight out of O’Hare the same day. Fridays are very busy at most airports around the country. Hallways in O’Hare resemble pedestrian rush hour traffic from the backup at the TSA line to the terminals as people practice defensive walking, nearly running over each other trying to get to their departure gates.

Boarding the flight can be just as chaotic. Some passengers stow their luggage and move out of everybody else’s way (fast lane), others needlessly block the aisle slowing down the boarding process (the on ramp). Even though lots of airlines have come up with creative ways to inform passengers about flight safety and other pertinent information, recent surveys revealed most travelers don’t care at all.

Most passengers pay little to no attention to safety videos at the beginning of the flight, they don’t read safety instruction cards that explain where exits are and what to do in case of emergency evacuations and they take for granted that every flight will be routine – until it’s not.

Maybe that’s why video posted on YouTube of that Boeing 767 engine fire last Friday shows passengers retrieving luggage out of overhead bins in the middle of the emergency evacuation, something flight crews clearly tell passengers NOT to do. The fact that some passengers took the time to record video – while smoke and fire threatened their lives – speaks volumes about some people’s priorities or the lack thereof.

I wasn’t on flight 383. My flight had taken off earlier headed to Raleigh, N.C. I learned about the engine fire soon after my flight landed safely. My colleagues did a great job getting every passenger off the plane safely, despite those few who jeopardized others and themselves by delaying the evacuation taking selfies and keepsake videos.

You might think people who traveled the next day might have been more attentive during the safety demo on their flights. A few of them on my flights Saturday took the time for a quick glance at the safety instruction card. But for most passengers it was business as usual, as if that engine fire was just a Halloween prank. They ignored the safety demo and rudely talked over us flight attendants while we pointed out emergency exits. Welcome to our world!

Steffanie is a freelance journalist living in the Dallas-Ft.Worth metroplex. Email her at [email protected] to send comments, questions and for speaking inquiries.