Southwest Airlines Flight 1380 Disaster: ‘Almost Everyone’ Wore Their Oxygen Masks Incorrectly

Here's how to properly wear an airplane oxygen mask, should they ever deploy when you're on-board.

The southwest airlines passengers wore their oxygen masks wrong
litabit / AP Images

Here's how to properly wear an airplane oxygen mask, should they ever deploy when you're on-board.

“Almost everyone” aboard Southwest Airlines Flight 1380, which made an emergency landing earlier this week after a mid-air catastrophe caused a window to blow out, was wearing their oxygen masks incorrectly, a former flight attendant posted on Twitter Tuesday.

“In the unlikely event of a loss of cabin pressure, panels above your seat will open revealing oxygen masks.”

It’s a spiel you’ve heard a thousand times if you’ve spent a lot of hours in a crowded aircraft cabin. And you’ve probably ignored it 999 of those times – after all, you expect your plane to land safely. And with exceedingly-rare exceptions, they do, without incident.

And that lack of attentiveness, borne of comfort and expectations, may have led many SW1380 passengers to wear their masks incorrectly.

Bobby Laurie, a former flight attendant who now hosts a TV show, explains with a tweet.

The problem, as Laurie points out, is that most of the passengers don’t have both their mouths and noses covered. That’s wrong – you need to cover both. According to Business Insider, if you don’t cover both your nose and your mouth, not enough oxygen will get into your bloodstream. That can lead to a condition called hypoxia – that is, lack of oxygen in your bloodstream. According to WebMD, that can lead to confusion, shortness of breath, fainting, or – worst-case-scenario – death.

Another problem Laurie pointed out is that many of the passengers appeared to be cavalierly watching their phones and taking selfies instead of listening to the cabin crew’s instructions. And though Laurie didn’t mention it in his tweet, many passengers appear to be holding their masks to their faces with their hands – another no-no, according to the in-flight instructions given to every passenger on every Southwest Airlines flight.

“Secure the mask with the elastic strap. Although oxygen will be flowing, the plastic bag may not inflate. Continue wearing the mask until otherwise notified by a crew member.”

By the way, if you’re ever onboard an aircraft with someone who needs special assistance – say, a small child or an elderly relative – and the oxygen masks drop, put yours on first. It may seem neglectful, nay even cruel, but there’s a reason for that. At 32,000 feet, if the pressure suddenly drops, you have about 30 seconds of useful consciousness before hypoxia sets in. You don’t want to waste those 30 seconds fiddling around with someone else’s mask. Get yours on first, then help others. For the few seconds it takes you to get yours on, they will be OK.