Do Over-the-Top Safety Videos Risk Leaving Passengers Unsure in an Emergency?

Aug 28, 2019

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Just two years ago, the global aviation industry recorded its safest year in history, a major milestone knowing that billions of passengers had taken to the skies. However, as passengers, we should always expect the unexpected. A key part of building on the ‘expect’ part is the informing and educating that occurs on every flight worldwide, without exception, shortly before takeoff.

Ever since the introduction of inflight entertainment screens in the mid-1980s, airline safety videos have been a standard part of the flight. For decades, these videos would clearly explain safety procedures in a direct manner, such as how to open an emergency exit or manually inflate a lifejacket — assisted by graphics and physical demonstrations by crew members standing in the aisle.

Fast-forward to modern-day aviation, a time where more people are flying than ever before, and enter the never-ending battle to get all passengers to pay attention to various flight-safety procedures. As a result, airlines have turned to humour and creative approaches to get passengers to pay attention to their pre-flight safety videos.

In fact, onboard safety videos featuring all-singing, all-dancing productions can be seen on several airlines across the globe. Some airlines deliver safety instructions by having Hollywood A-listers re-enact emergency evacuation procedures. And others use their best tourist attraction as a backdrop when explaining how to fasten your seatbelt.

But does the trend of comical, entertaining pre-flight safety demonstration videos risk leaving passengers unsure of exactly what to do in an emergency? In the unlikely event of an emergency, passengers need to be empowered with the knowledge necessary to be able to evacuate the aircraft within 90 seconds. Even a frequent flyer may be caught unaware, given that airlines operate a variety of different aircraft types and processes.

For example, on a single-aisle Boeing jet, the overwing exit door will ‘pop up’ once released, simply requiring passengers to jump out. However, on a very similar Airbus single-aisle aircraft, passengers are required to throw the overwing exit door out of the aircraft. For this reason, the particular safety demonstration is vitally important to listen to, as your current aircraft could have a different evacuation procedure than that on your previous flight.

Some airlines believe that comedy is the very reason passengers are finally engaging.

British Airways CEO Alex Cruz said, “It’s extremely important to us that customers engage with our safety video, and involving some of the nation’s most well-known personalities has given us the chance to create something fun that we hope people will watch from start to finish — and remember”.

Air New Zealand’s General Manager for Global Brand and Content Marketing Jodie Williams has said, “Our safety videos have proven to be a hugely effective marketing tool and we continue to be amazed with the reactions they garner”.

Meanwhile, just this week, Japan Airlines introduced a new safety video, which was more serious than those seen more recently. In it, animated figures show the danger that can be had by passengers not properly following crew instructions and safety procedures.

Current regulations allow airlines free reign to include whatever they want in airline safety briefings, as long as the required information is included — without restrictions on the delivery of the information. In the US, the Federal Aviation Administration approves each pre-flight safety video.

But how much humour is too much? Do you find the out-of-the-ordinary pre-flight safety videos to be informative and entertaining, or do you find them to be distracting from the safety aspect?

Featured photo courtesy or Virgin America.

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