Hypothetical scenario. I'm on a commercial airliner (A320) as a passenger, sitting by the wings. We are cruising at 32,000. The oxygen masks suddenly drop down and the nose pitches down heavily, whilst banking 30 to 45 degrees to maintain positive load factors.

Obviously everyone is panicking, I fit my oxygen mask and realize what is happening. We likely lost cabin pressure and are descending to a safe altitude. In a few minutes, we'll be at 10,000 and can safely remove the masks and land at the nearest airport.

I want to communicate this to the rest of the passengers, to make them feel at ease and less panicked. Obviously the cabin crew are busy helping children and others fir their masks, so don't have time to communicate this, the pilots are also far too pre-occupied.

How can I best do this? Could I take a deep breath with the mask on, remove it to explain what is happening at high volume and then pause for breaths with the mask on? Or maybe I could write it down and pass it around on some paper / a phone?

Any advice would be much appreciated.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Several answers, all upvoted. If down-voting, please explain why or edit the question. $\endgroup$
    – Cloud
    Oct 12 '20 at 14:09
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    $\begingroup$ I think the answers explain quite well why people might downvote such a question. from the downvote tooltip: "this question does not show any research effort; it is unclear or it is not useful" $\endgroup$
    – Federico
    Oct 12 '20 at 14:39
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    $\begingroup$ @Federico what kind of research would answer the question Cloud made, please explain. The question is chrystal clear, at least I have no trouble understanding it, and I see great opportunity to advance and promote safe passenger behaviour and understanding of emergy situations here. Absolutely no reason for downvotes IMO. $\endgroup$
    – Jpe61
    Oct 12 '20 at 17:21
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    $\begingroup$ @Jpe61 OP has asked several questions like "how can I do what a pilot/other crewmember is tasked with doing, as a passenger?" he should read/remember the answers and comments to those questions, because the answer is always the same. $\endgroup$
    – Federico
    Oct 12 '20 at 17:47
  • $\begingroup$ Downvoting because this is an even more ridiculous question than "what happens if the flight crew are incapacitated and I have to fly the plane". $\endgroup$
    – zymhan
    Oct 13 '20 at 2:32

A couple of things that get drilled into you in first aid or emergency response training is 'if you aren't part of the solution you're part of the problem', second is 'don't become a casualty.' In other words, don't be a hero. In the scenario you describe there's going to be yelling and screaming from all around, raising your voice isn't going to help the situation. Why would they listen to some random person who stands up and starts shouting anyway? I haven't been in an emergency descent but I've been in my fair share of crises, and I guarantee that no matter how amazingly composed you expect yourself to be you will be crapping your pants like everyone else, don't assume you'd be the calm voice of reason. So:

  • Put your own mask on first so you stay conscious, and aren't part of the problem
  • Help others put on their masks after you put on yours, so you are part of the solution
  • Sit down, keep quiet and listen to instructions, so you aren't part of the problem

Lead by example by maintaining calm, assist others where you can without getting in the way, listen to instructions and stay out of the way. If you want to communicate give a confident thumbs up to people to let them know you're not worried.


I’ve been a passenger on a plane in an emergency depressurization.

The first thing to realize is that everything happens amazingly fast. Even as a (GA) pilot myself, it was almost over before I even realized what was happening.

The second is that pretty much everyone on the plane grabbed their masks and started putting them on as soon as they dropped, then started helping others, exactly as directed in the briefing. Keep in mind that roughly half of passengers are frequent fliers who have heard that briefing hundreds or thousands of times. My mask was on before I had time to think about why I was putting it on.

Third, as soon as the cabin crew had their masks on (which took longer than me since they had to get back to their seats), they made an announcement for everyone to put on their masks. And one of the pilots broke in over that announcement with his own announcement saying the same thing. The cabin crew did not assist passengers, nor were they “busy” with anything else. There was nothing else they could do.

All that happened in the first fifteen seconds or so. That is why crews drill on emergency procedures over and over until recognizing and responding to emergencies is a reflex.

Lastly, as we continued the descent, I was trapped in place by my seatbelt and mask, and the plane was tilted so sharply that I couldn’t have moved much anyway. I assume that’s why the cabin crew stayed in their seats too. The general noise level was so high that, even if I screamed (as a few other people had started to do) at the top of my lungs, nobody else could have understood me anyway.

Maybe two minutes later, we leveled off, removed our masks, and continued on to our destination. Aside from the masks hanging down, it was a totally uneventful flight after that. Drink and snack services resumed, there was a line for the toilets, and people went back to their movies or books or naps like nothing had happened. Maybe liquor/wine sales were a bit higher than usual.


Best thing you can do is remain calm, and let the trained personnel handle the situation.

Panic is a state of mind impenetrable to reason, and you being a random person amongst passengers will absolutely not help in communicating with your peers. One of the major reasons for crew wearing uniforms is that it gives them authority. This helps them control the crowd in difficult situations. Imagine the purser shouting out commands wearing a worn out t-shirt. Nope...


  • Do not interfere
  • Be calm
  • Do not write and pass on messages, they are a distraction at best

You may try to reassure people directly next to you, but do not talk over crew announcements.

Whatever you do, do not:

  • Remove mask untill told so
  • Unbuckle your seatbelt
  • Shout even the most soothing words

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