I was wondering what would be the consequences of disobeying flight crew due to emergency.

I was watching a video of Singapore B773 enroute on Jun 27th 2016 that landed, had a wing on fire, and passengers were made to sit and wait with the plane on fire. I would find it very hard not to attempt to evacuate plane.

  • $\begingroup$ Similarly people who try to retrieve their carry on luggage $\endgroup$
    – Antzi
    Aug 4, 2016 at 2:28
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    $\begingroup$ The worst possible consequence of disobeying the flight crew is death. Yours, or you cause someone else's, or both. One example: In a water landing, all too many people inflate their life jackets before evacuating the plane. This is almost a guaranteed death sentence. $\endgroup$ Aug 4, 2016 at 2:35
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelHampton: Following your reasoning, if someone is going to cause my death, then wouldn't it be better to rush off the cabin before that happens, including against crew orders that can't prevent fools to inflate their life vest? $\endgroup$
    – mins
    Aug 4, 2016 at 6:29
  • $\begingroup$ @mins And get sucked into a burning engine? No thanks. The time for running for the exits is when it's called out, or when the plane is in pieces. $\endgroup$ Aug 4, 2016 at 6:38
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    $\begingroup$ I don't think there is an answwer to this question. Consequences could be death of everybody on board or survival of everybody on board. It kind of depends on the situation and what you are doing. $\endgroup$ Aug 8, 2016 at 4:39

2 Answers 2


There are laws which mean you must comply with crew orders at any time whilst on an aircraft. This is especially important in an emergency. In the Singapore example, imagine if a passenger had, without thinking (as tends to happen in emergencies), opened up a door on the side that was on fire. Fire could have entered the cabin, ensuring fatalities.

However, no prosecutor is going to pursue charges against someone for disobeying directions in an emergency, unless their actions clearly led to serious harm. Every evacuation, so many people stop and try to get their carry-on items, when they are clearly told not to. Even though this increases the chances of other people dying, nobody has been prosecuted for that (to the best of my knowledge).

  • $\begingroup$ I'm curious about the laws applying to a stubborn Swedish citizen opening in Dakar, against crew orders, the door of a Lufthansa aircraft departed from Rio for Berlin, but forced to land in Senegal due to a fuel leak. And where would the criminal trial occur? (not asking for civil court). $\endgroup$
    – mins
    Aug 4, 2016 at 6:17
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    $\begingroup$ Not a lawyer, but there are a few possibilities here. Since such an event would, in all likelihood, entail an emergency landing, the local authorities would be in the best position to immediately press criminal charges against the individual in question. Failing that, Germany would certainly be able to press charges, as the individual endangered a German aircraft, crew, and multiple German nationals. Lastly, any non-German or -Senegalese government whose nationals were present on the plane might also be able to press charges against the individual, since he put their citizens in danger. $\endgroup$
    – habu
    Aug 4, 2016 at 6:59
  • $\begingroup$ @mins What happens in that scenario is defined somewhere. I think in that case Senegal and Germany would both have jurisdiction - but that sounds like a good question to ask and get a complete answer! $\endgroup$
    – Ben
    Aug 4, 2016 at 11:03
  • $\begingroup$ @mins the law of the country you are in are the only ones that automatically apply. The laws of your own country may also apply to your abroad. In that case, you'd be in Senegal so Senegalese law would apply. $\endgroup$
    – Jon Story
    Aug 4, 2016 at 11:56
  • $\begingroup$ @JonStory: Actually, any law that says it applies, does apply. For example, Belgium has an article in its criminal code for Crimes Against Humanity, and this article explicitly states that always applies, no matter the place, the nationality of the victim, the perpetrator, or the person filing the complaint. There doesn't have to be any relation to Belgium at all, Belgian courts will try any and all cases of Crimes Against Humanity brought before it. The question is, of course, does the accused care? Unless he plans to spend a holiday in Belgium, probably not. $\endgroup$ Aug 5, 2016 at 16:42

The consequence would be to decrease your chance of survival. It's all about controlling chaos. Evacuation in an orderly controlled fashion increases the chances of survival over a chaotic rush for the door.

You are only interested in yourself, but the training that the crew goes through is to increase the survival of the highest number of passengers. Sure, your mad rush for the door may save yourself and possibly a couple others behind you but the stampede behind you is not as efficient of evacuation as an orderly controlled evacuation.

History has taught that the chance of chaos is increased if passengers get up from their seats before the plane comes to a complete stop. So the crew puts on their best authoritative voice and tries to make you sit there until the odds are optimum.

Your best chance of survival is to do exactly what the crew says to do. Their training is based on lessons learned from previous real life accidents.


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