When smoke began to fill the cabin after a Delta Air Lines flight landed in Denver on May 8, passengers made an emergency evacuation. Off popped the emergency exit doors; down went the slides.

I googled the scene and was horrified. Yes, the passengers seemed nervous. But something else stood out: Some of those evacuated were holding hefty carry-on bags.

While images of the plane's exterior filled my screen, my mind went to the interior, where some people blocked the aisle and wasted time by retrieving bags from overhead bins. After the incident, one passenger tweeted, "Baby was last one out!!!"

I am guessing the luggage-toting passengers hadn't consciously decided their clothing, makeup and business papers were more important than human lives on the plane. They were panicked and not thinking clearly.

But they still make me mad.

Fortunately, the plane was not on fire and all 153 people on board evacuated safely.

Such hasty exits are few and far between. But fliers should still mentally prepare for one. Those who spend a few minutes visualizing an evacuation have a better chance of doing so properly, which means leaving bags behind.

Ken Hoke, a pilot and author of the AeroSavvy website, offers the following tips:

Once seated, look for the two nearest emergency exits, one in front of you and one behind. Count the rows to the exits and remember them; the goal is to find the exits with your eyes closed since smoke may force your eyes to involuntarily shut.

Listen to the safety announcements, read the safety briefing card and take them seriously.

In an evacuation, don't waste time gathering your stuff.

"Last, but not least," he wrote, "listen to the crew!"

No doubt that among the important instructions they'd be sharing is this: Leave your luggage behind.

Send your questions or tips to Travel Editor Kerri Westenberg at travel@startribune.com, and follow her on Twitter: @kerriwestenberg.