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Anger over passengers who took bags as they fled plane

September 11, 2015

CNN Travel

(CNN)The captain of a plane that caught fire on the runway at Las Vegas has been praised for swift action, but criticism is mounting against some of his passengers who fled carrying their luggage.

Photographs taken on the tarmac after London-bound British Airways Flight 2276 was evacuated show passengers with bags and even wheeled suitcases making their escape.

At least 14 people were treated for minor injuries following the September 8 incident at McCarran International Airport, the cause of which is still being investigated.

British pilot Chris Henkey slammed on the brakes and summoned emergency services when the fire broke out, allowing all 170 on board to be evacuated within minutes.

Henkey was labeled a hero on Twitter.

    Jim McAuslan, general secretary of the British Airline Pilots’ Association, has praised the professionalism of the captain and crew.

    “Pilots are trained to prepare for things not going to plan throughout every single flight, so that they are able to make split-second decisions and keep passengers safe,” McAuslan told the UK’s Press Association. “A pilot could go through their whole career without dealing with an incident like this but if it happens all the training and time in the simulator pays off.”

    ‘Confused situation’

    There were sterner words for passengers who ignored safety protocols and grabbed their bags before exiting the plane.

    Aviation executive and pilot Laurie Price told The Independent newspaper that their actions could’ve resulted in far more serious casualties.

    “Wheeled cases could easily have ripped the escape slides, rendering them unusable and prejudicing passengers’ safe exit, whilst cases in the aisle make a confused situation even worse,” he said.

    Captain Brendan O’Neal, chairman of the British Airline Pilots’ Association told the paper: “Failing to follow the instructions of the crew by stopping to collect luggage is extremely dangerous.”

    Such actions not only defy British Airways own in-flight safety advice, but also fall foul of official guidelines.

    Safety information available online from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration emphatically capitalizes the instruction to “LEAVE YOUR POSSESSIONS BEHIND” under its evacuation procedures.

    Joseph Steinberg, a journalist with the UK’s Guardian newspaper who was on board the flight, said people shouldn’t criticize passengers who took their luggage with them.

    “People go into panic mode in that situation,” he said via Twitter.

    That hasn’t stopped many people taking to social media to vent their consternation.

    “I hope they collected up all the people with cabin luggage and made them get the boat home!” wrote one Twitter user, Ed Morris.

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