Look, Iíll level with you. Iíve told the ďshouldnít buckling your seatbelt be a prerequisite for purchasing a ticketĒ joke so many times to my seatmates as an icebreaker that itís almost instinct at this point. And I know very little about what Iíd actually have to do, or what I should do, if there was a serious situation. I know Iím not alone. Take the Hudson River landing for example. How many passengers exited without their lifejackets? In this disaster, how many people tried to grab their luggage before escaping?
One response in defense of turning the safety briefing into a comedy routine is that it helps people pay attention. Itís amazing how we come up with these justifications, isnít it? I canít think of one other aspect of life where belittling something causes people to take it more seriously, but apparently people think evacuation procedures are an exception. Iím not buying it. No one is learning any more than they do normally. Case and point: When those people on that Southwest flight went home, did they say, ďHey, guess what I learned today about airline safety?Ē No. Theyíre talking about how funny it was, how charming the flight attendant was, and how, for once, they didnít fall asleep pre-flight.
What this all blatantly screams to me is that the safety briefing needs an overhaul. Or, maybe it needs to be eliminated. If no one cares, if no one is paying attention, if no one knows anything more than they did before it happened, then letís take the burden off the airlines and our eardrums. Letís tackle the legal side of it with some small print on the ticket contract that makes each customer agree they know how to buckle a seatbelt. Letís allow the airlines to stop doing something for the hell of it.
Then, after that, letís get back to working on how we can fix the problem of panicked passengers who put others in danger during an emergency. Perhaps the answer isnít to cram before the exam Ė maybe we can do a better job of educating people before they even purchase a ticket and step foot on a plane. Show of hands: Who here knows what theyíd actually have to do if an emergency occurs while they are seated in the exit row? Or what the flight attendants will ask you to do in the case of a water landing, fire, rogue passenger, etc?
I donít, and I fly a lot. For how many safety briefings Iíve listened to, thatís strange, donít you think? It gives me an idea. In the interest of practicing what I preach, I promise to pen an article or two on these very topics in the coming weeks. And if the airlines donít cooperate, Iíll let you know that as well.
Something has got to give here, and if the fact that flight attendants are using the safety briefing as a means to become YouTube sensations isnít enough to prove that, then we are truly, completely lost on the bigger picture.