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Looking after business

Cabin safety is critical but most passengers are unaware, as Mario Pierobon finds

 It is generally accepted that in recent years cabin safety management efforts are increasingly rotating around episodes such as dangerous goods (DG) events connected to the use of portable electronic devices (PEDs), disruptions caused by unruly passengers, as well as medical emergencies especially on long haul flights. In order to handle such events airlines have developed dedicated cabin safety procedures which rely on the use of specialised equipment.


Dangerous goods and portable electronic devices


While there is no data available in the public domain as to the incidence of DG safety events connected to use of PEDs, airlines are increasingly scrutinising such incidents. When it comes to dangerous goods, KLM keeps a close eye on international guidelines and applies these network-wide. “We also routinely update our policy statements on our website, recently regarding power banks and lithium batteries,” KLM says. “Lithium batteries can generate a great amount of heat if short circuited, or may catch fire if damaged, improperly designed or improperly assembled. Therefore, loose lithium batteries and power banks for personal use in devices such as laptops, mobile phones and DVD players, and for medical equipment, is restricted and may only be carried in hand baggage. Each spare battery must be packed separately in the original packaging.”


“Lufthansa deals with DG safety events connected to use of PEDs according to the firefighting procedures in our cabin crew handbook, also containing additional information on lithium ion cell handling guidelines,” Lufthansa says. “Our dangerous goods handling procedures foresee the deployment of onboard equipment that  includes smoke hoods, protective gloves, plastic bags, paper towels/blankets and fire extinguishers.”


To deal with DG events, many airlines are equipped with the so called DG kit. “This kit usually contains two pairs of acid proof gloves and some acid proof polyethylene bags, seals and a checklist. Should there be any leaking unknown liquid, maybe acid, the item can be safely stowed. In addition, every aircraft is equipped with protective breathing equipment (PBE) in case of smoke or other toxic fumes, as well as fire extinguishers. During the yearly recurrent trainings, the cabin crews are regularly trained to deal with such situations,” says Stephanie Stalder, a Cabin Safety Manager and Consultant.


Unruly passengers


International airlines carry several million passengers every year and, it should be noted, only a tiny percentage of them display unruly behaviours. When dealing with unruly passengers, every airline has its own procedures. “First of all, the crews are well trained in dealing with unruly passengers, in terms of how to avoid such situations, how to properly communicate with these passengers and to de-escalate difficult situations. Many airlines are equipped with restraining devices in case the unruly passenger is a danger to the safety of the flight, the passengers and the crew. Some cabin crews are also trained in overwhelming unruly passengers,” says Stalder.


“Incidents include smoking in the toilet, aggressive and disturbed behaviour, and extreme responses from passengers with fear of flying, but the majority of incidents are caused by people who have had too much to drink or who are under the influence of other substances when they come on board,” KLM says. “As an airline we do not tolerate any form of aggression towards our staff or passengers and we have a blacklist of passengers who have misbehaved in the past; all of which is in compliance with IATA standards and guidelines on personal data. Passengers displaying aggressive behaviour run the risk that they will no longer be allowed to fly KLM or will only be allowed to do so under strict conditions.”


When unruly passengers become disruptive the best industry practices require the cabin crews to focus on communication and de-escalation, according to Lufthansa.


“Our ground and cabin crews are trained to effectively mitigate and prevent unacceptable behaviour by applying verbal skills to calm passengers down. In addition, crew are trained to intervene in the event of an escalation. Safety on board is always the chief priority under such circumstances,” says Lufthansa. “The training crews undergo is revised annually on the basis of incidents and the latest information available. We also regularly brief and update staff on such matters. Our airline pursues a zero-tolerance policy, laying charges where possible and denying unruly passengers access to our flights for shorter or longer periods of time.” >>


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