Have you ever been in that moment of anxiety when your plane lands at the destination airport and as soon as the seat belt sign goes off, passengers around you immediately start scrambling the overhead compartments to pick their hand luggage and rushes to deplane?
I have been there, and seen many annoying airplane passengers including my recent trip from Colombo to Malé last Saturday on Sri Lanka government’s low-cost carrier Mihin Lanka. Our plane safely touched down at 1725hrs local time at Ibrahim Nasir International Airport. The seatbelt sign remained illuminated as the plane made its way to its jetway, in about three minutes the plane came to a complete stop and the seatbelt sign went off, and all passengers sprang from their seats like meerkats off an electric grid, they plunged into the aisles to snatch their hand luggage and jackets from the overhead compartments.
It turned out to be a competition to see who gets to stand up first, and then wait, staked like sardines, until the airport ground staff got the airstairs intact with the aircraft doors and crew allowed passengers to move and descend. I stood up as soon as we were allowed and collected my backpack from the overhead compartment, then waited in my seat for a convenient place to join the line, making sure I was not delaying the people behind me. I didn’t have any checked luggage with me, so I got my passport stamped, passed through the customs and managed to get to Malé before 1800hrs.
There were many Bangladeshis in our flight, many of whom were flying a commercial airline for the first time, laborers seeking employment – their work may involve being skilled or unskilled construction, road development, janitor, manufacturing, sanitation, warehousing and many other types of physical work. Many of them haven’t received a good education, so they lack in understanding this type of situations. However, there were a few other foreign nationals who were in a little too hurry.
There could be many reasons for passengers to rush to stand before they should, jeopardizing their own and many other’s safety. There are just anxious people simply being tired of sitting in an airplane and want to move on quickly as just their nature. Then there are passengers with tight connections to other flights. There are people who do this to beat as many people they could to get a better place to stand at the immigration and customs. There are the ones with the full bladder who had way too much beverage on-board and are in urgent need to pass urine. Then there are those who needs to get information or mobile phones in their carry on. There could be just a lot more reasons – and none of them are really worth the risk of injury by jumping up too soon before the seatbelt sign is switched off.
How someone gets off a plane can tell a lot about him. Lets say, the plane lands and the fasten seatbelt sign goes off, do you stand up even though you’re in a middle seat in row 40? There is nowhere to go, you’re gonna have to sit down and let the 200 passengers in front of you get up, grab their bags, text 5 of their friends and leave the aircraft before you can even make it to the aisle. But almost in every flight, everyone gets up immediately, as if this action will actually accomplish something. Does it? The worst example I encountered was on a flight again from Colombo to Malé, a fellow passenger got antsy, he rushed out of his seat and stood up to collect his hand luggage from the overhead compartment just after the aircraft landed, he wanted to quickly move from the back to the front of the cabin before anyone else could, but the aircraft was still taxing and it hadn’t even reached the jetway, and then a flight attendant had him singling and reminding that the seatbelt sign was still illuminated and the aircraft is yet to come to a complete stop. Granted, this is the extreme of ignorant passenger behavior. Some people don’t understand how easily they could be injured or hurt on an aircraft. It doesn’t have to crash for someone to get hurt. On the ground, there are all types of things the aircraft could run into or that could run into the aircraft. Even if the aircraft comes to a complete stop at the gate, and if the seatbelt sign is still on, passengers shouldn’t get off from their seats and move around. There are many occasions where the aircraft stopped too short and needed to be towed several more feet to reach the jetway. And that’s not possible with 200 passengers in front of you trying to get into an aisle and get their bags down.
Being a passenger on a commercial flight, he or she should abide to comply with the professionals who make it happen. It’s not a big deal.