Quick action by Hawaiian Airlines flight attendants today got nearly 200 passengers evacuated from the jetliner in under a minute.
Cabin crews train at least once a year — every year — just in case.
Many people may feel as if flight attendants are like servers in a restaurant — but they are trained for emergencies — like the one that happened today.
We spoke with Sara Nelson — international president of the Association of Flight Attendants — about what they would typically do in such a situation.
“We would be giving instructions, ‘release your seatbelt, get out, leave everything, come this way’ and we’d be directing them to the doors that we’ve been able to get open, where we have not seen any sort of obstruction, whether that’s fire, water or any other obstruction where we wouldn’t want to open that door and increase danger for the passengers.”
Once at that doorway — the slide, or slide raft would be stretched out in front of you.
What if you’re traveling with a baby?
Nelson says, “We would be telling those passengers to essentially cradle that infant in their lap and go down the slide and use their body to cradle that infant and keep them safe as they’re going down the slide.”
They give similar instructions to travelers with small pets in carriers.
And for travelers who are pregnant?
“The instructions for a pregnant woman really is the same as any other passenger, we’re going to be telling you to step off and slide down the raft, on your rear end and in that case, keep your belly protected.”
We asked about slide evacuations for the elderly, or travelers with disabilities.
Nelson says, “Typically when we have someone who has some sort of disability when they get on the plane, we’re going to have a special briefing with that person, we’re going to ask them how they would prefer to be helped.”
For safety reasons, everything must be left behind, including wheelchairs and walkers.
“In the event of an emergency, in a situation like this, an aircraft can actually burn up completely within 90 seconds, so really what we need to do is get everyone off of the plane, and even when someone has a device that assists them in normal operations, they’re going to have to leave that behind. We need to get them on the ground and away from the aircraft.”
Nelson says the Hawaiian Airlines crew’s performance in the emergency was “textbook.”
“They really performed in a way that makes all of us, as aviation’s first-responders, very proud.”
Nelson says the best thing passengers can do is to pay attention to the safety briefing at the beginning of every flight.
They are meant to prepare you in the event of an emergency just like today’s.