On Friday 28 October 2016 American Airlines flight AA383 aborted its take off at Chicago O’Hare International Airport following an uncontained engine failure. Following a loud explosion the Boeing 767’s right engine caught fire, engulfing the right wing in flames that reportedly melted passenger windows. However, despite the passenger safety briefing reminding travellers to leave their hand luggage behind in the event of an emergency, mobile phone footage of the evacuation shows empty over head lockers and passengers walking away from the burning aircraft clutching their carry on.
Fortunately in the case of flight AA383, all 161 passengers, 9 crew members and a dog were able to safely evacuate the burning aircraft. Twenty passengers were reportedly hospitalised for minor injuries following the aircraft accident, primarily to lower limbs following evacuation down the emergency slides. The flight crew of AA383 have been praised for avoiding a disaster by quickly aborting the take off and bringing the aircraft to a halt. If the flight had become airborne, the casualty toll would have no doubt been higher and more serious.
However the passenger behaviour during the aftermath highlights the importance of prompt evacuation to minimise injury to passengers. It is concerning to read that some passengers took the time to retrieve their hand luggage before evacuating. These were similar scenes to the evacuation of Emirates flight EK521 after it crash landed in Dubai in August 2016. As well as delaying evacuation, carrying hand luggage in an emergency is particularly dangerous when using escape chutes: sharp edges can puncture the inflatable slides and bags can hit the backs of passengers lower down the slide causing them injury.
In circumstances where passengers are injured during air travel, they have rights to claim personal injury compensation from the airline. These rights are governed by international conventions, most commonly the Montreal Convention 1999. Compensation rights during domestic air travel within Australia follow the same principles as the Montreal Convention under both Commonwealth and State legislation. Under these rules, passengers can claim compensation for injuries sustained during a flight up to a certain monetary limit without having to prove negligence by the airline.
If you have been injured on an aircraft or in an airport, it is important that you seek specialist legal advice. The laws relating to aircraft accidents are complex and short deadlines apply. If you have been injured on an aircraft, contact our travel law department on 1800 25 1800 for a no obligation discussion about your circumstances, or make an online enquiry.
Written by Victoria Roy.
Victoria Roy is Practice Group Leader of Stacks Goudkamp’s Travel Law Department. Victoria specialises in bringing personal injury claims for people who have been injured in aircraft accidents, on cruise ships and overseas.