Nobody wants to find themselves in an emergency situation 39,000 feet in the air. And while commercial flights rarely end in crash landings, the advice of a former flight attendant on how best to prepare for one, has been going viral after it was shared on question-answer forum Quora. Here are her top tips:
Shield your head and neck
When stray luggage is flying around the cabin, it’s important to protect yourself from any potential impact. Retired United Airlines flight attendant Cheryl Schwartz recommends covering your head, neck and back, “with a blanket, jacket, coat or whatever you have to dampen the blow”, and adds that this will also be helpful if the ceiling starts to collapse.
Keep your bag under your seat
It’s something flight attendants stress before every take off and landing, but according to Schwartz, it isn’t just to prevent bags from slamming into someone’s face. Having your hand luggage tucked under the seat in front of you means it can act as a barrier to stop your feet, legs (and potentially your whole body) from sliding into that space.
There are two possible brace positions you can adopt in the event of an emergency (depending on whether you have a seat in front of you that you can reach), and Schwartz says they really are essential.
“You are going to flail around during a crash, but with your head supported in front of you your flailing distance is lessened and you have less chance of head and neck whiplash injuries," she says.
Get out of there, fast
At the beginning of every flight, you’re asked to familiarise yourself with the nearest exit and remember “it may be behind you” - information Schwartz believes is crucial when you’ve only got a few moments to get out.
“I don’t care if you have flown in 747s for decades, they are not all the same, " she says. "Each time you take your seat you must count the number of rows between your seat and the nearest exits in front of you and behind you on the left and the right.”
She also stresses that you should save yourself – not your luggage. Leave all your personal belongings behind and evacuate, as your bags could end up slowing you down and blocking the way out.
Actually listen to the safety briefing
As straight forward as it may seem, Schwartz recommends paying attention to the flight attendants’ safety briefing and familiarising yourself with any safety card provided. Knowing how to open the emergency exits is also important and can save you vital time when trying to escape under pressure.
While it’s always better to be safe than sorry, as the old adage goes, it's comforting to remember that aviation has come a long way since the time of the Wright brothers and thankfully, commercial plane crashes are rare. Schwartz's advice has since been deleted from the Quora question-answer chain.