As passengers aboard flight died, others grabbed their luggage

This photo, taken from a video distributed by Russian Investigative Committee on Monday, shows the wreckage of Sukhoi SSJ100 aircraft of Aeroflot Airlines is seen in Sheremetyevo airport outside Moscow. At least 40 people died when an Aeroflot airliner burst into flames while making an emergency landing. Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation, via AP

There was a detail tucked into Monday’s news stories about the Aeroflot jet that caught fire while making an emergency landing at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport that provides a case study on human psychology: several of the survivors were seen on the runway carrying their luggage.

A lot of passengers died; but at least people got their “stuff.”

We’ve seen this before — September 2015 for example — when a British airline’s plane caught fire on the tarmac at the airport in Las Vegas.

Think about what has to happen inside a burning plane for this to happen. Think about how much time it takes for you to exit your non-burning airplane because of people pulling their carry-on out of the overhead bins. That’s what was happening Monday when people needed to get out of a plane on which they were about to die.

It is, the New York Times reports, a major concern of flight attendants whose job it is to evacuate the plane quickly. One flight attendant aboard the Aeroflot jet died.

The Times runs down a list of options for improving your odds in a crash — wearing non-flammable clothing, paying attention to the safety briefing, knowing where the emergency exits are, don’t wear flip-flops — but among the most important is: forget about your luggage.

“There’s not much in your carry-on luggage worth dying for,” said Frank Jackman, a spokesperson for the Flight Safety Foundation. “And you wouldn’t want to be the reason for someone else getting injured.”

The FAA mandates many actions aboard a plane to make a crash more survivable, but hasn’t gotten around to one that is among the biggest threats, particularly in a time when airline baggage fees are a big moneymaker for the industry.

If people are dying because passengers can’t part with their “stuff,”maybe it’s time to prevent them from carrying it onboard.