There’s perhaps nothing more terrifying than the thought of being on a plane when it crashes. If you were to somehow survive such a calamity, you’d rightly call it a travel miracle.
But there are actually several simple things you can do to increase your chances of getting safely off a plane after something bad happens, says CNN transportation analyst Mary Schiavo.
Modern aircraft are designed for passengers to be able to evacuate within 90 seconds, said Schiavo, a safety advocate and aviation lawyer who has represented fliers and crew members of several aviation accidents. A lot of times, being a smart passenger who can evacuate from a plane in such a quick time period begins with your clothes.
Wear sensible shoes
It’s pretty tempting sometimes just to take those shoes off after boarding a flight. But Schiavo advises keeping them on – and make sure they’re sensible – in case you have to run.
“You’d want to keep them on because if something happens on takeoff – and remember takeoffs and landings are the most dangerous parts of a flight – if you have on silly shoes or no shoes, you can’t get up, evacuate the plane and run,” she told CNN.
She pointed to the survivors of Aeromexico Flight 2431, which crashed in July in northern Mexico with 103 people on board. Everyone survived the crash, but she notes they had to walk through some pretty tough terrain after they got off the plane.
Wear clothing that covers your arms and legs
Schiavo says this is excellent protection against burns, scrapes and abrasions.
“When your arms and legs are covered you have a layer of protection between you and something that can harm you,” she said.
Doing so can not only save you, but it could also be the difference between life and death for someone else.
“Always wear something that covers your arms and legs because you never know when you might have to save your seatmate.”
Don’t get drunk
Getting wasted on a flight isn’t cool at any time, but especially during an emergency evacuation, because it makes it just that much harder to get everybody out of the aircraft.
“That person’s not only a hazard to themselves, but they’re a hazard to others,” Schiavo said. “They’re going to be a big hazard in an evacuation.”
Know where the exits are
Schiavo says the first thing she does when she boards a flight, even before sitting down in her seat, is to find the exits.
“I see how far away they are; I look down to see where the emergency lighting is,” she said.
Just doing those simple things can save passengers time, and in an emergency on a plane, “success is measured in seconds.”
She said the aviation industry has also made changes to planes to give passengers more time, including switching out the fabric and padding on airplane seats with material that’s more fire resistant.
“Just changing that gave passengers extra seconds before the cabin filled with deadly fumes. So every little change is measured in the time it gives passengers to get off” the aircraft, she said.