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Should Airlines Just Do Away with the Pre-Flight Safety Spiel?

April 17, 2014 at 8:28 AM | by | ()

By now, youíve probably seen the footage of the Southwest flight attendant who made the mother of all mockeries of the safety briefing. Lots of flight attendants have put on such a routine in the past, yet few have been so transparent about their second-hand intentions. Most, we assume, are just trying to make a mundane, mandatory speech colorful and interesting. But according to this latest videoís description on YouTube, this flight attendant had a bigger vision: She wants to make an appearance on Ellen.

This writer is not even going to get into that last part, as it would only help her cause. I will tackle the bigger picture here, the well-known fact that even flight attendants arenít afraid to advertise that the safety video is nothing more than a legal burden, that they think itís an absolute joke, so much so that theyíre consistently willing to go out on a limb to make fun of it, to joke around as if airplanes never have accidents, to refer to the lifejacket as a "teeny weeny yellow Southwest bikini."

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.

[Photo: Mania]

Archived Comments:

It's Not All About You

Just because you don't pay attention doesn't mean the other 100+ people on board aren't listening. The idea that safety briefings should be eliminated is utterly ridiculous.

Also, it sounds as though you shouldn't be sitting in an emergency exit row. Your desire for extra leg room shouldn't trump the safety of the your fellow passengers. For example: How long does it take to figure out if the over-wing exit door should be kept onboard or thrown outside during an evacuation. If that 45 seconds of extra attention is too taxing, let someone else sit in the exit row.

I concur

@thackftl. We are on same page. Again. Like that twitter threat we commented about. These Jaunted writers are being ridiculous. Safety videos are of the utmost importance. And I loathe when they try to be cute. Safety is no joke, and videos/demonstrations need to be taken seriously. What is the number 1 priority of all US airlines? Comfort? No. Service? No. SAFETY. There is a reason why you need to speak English to sit in the exit rows. So you can understand the FAs instructions should an emergency occur. Policies and procedures are in place for a reason - including safety briefings. While you may fly a lot, there's a decent chance you're on the plane with a first time flyer. But who cares about them! Ever taken a cruise before? They have muster station safety trainings too. Should they get rid of those?

Re: It's not all about you

Oh please. Are you serious? Show me one flight where 100 people are paying attention to the briefing when it's not an all out comedy routine. To claim that everyone is paying attention to the video kinda undercuts your credibility here. Also, the point you make about the Emer Exit row is exactly my point... no one sitting there knows what they'd actually have to do. I offer a concrete solution to try and fix that through education before even getting on the flight.

Re: I concur

The entire purpose of the article is to point out that the safety briefings are ineffective, as evidenced by emergencies where passengers did everything wrong. I'm saying we need to fix that in someway, and maybe we should go a different direction than the current system. "These Jaunted writers are being ridiculous...I loathe when they try to be cute." Sounds like you should find another site to read.

If you can't stand the heat...

"Sounds like you should find another site to read."

Sounds like you need a new job. If you can't handle people being critical of your opinions, perhaps you shouldn't be writing for a blog.

As for what I wrote, I don't think I'm the person that needs to establish credibility since I'm not advocating changes to the existing system. I will happily concede that the people at the FAA know more about how to keep passengers safe on airplanes. I'm guessing that compatriot macdan911 feels the same way.

As to your credibility, please explain how you know more than collective intelligence of the people who work in the Aviation Safety division of the FAA. If you are unable to do that, perhaps you shouldn't be suggesting policy changes that affect the safety of the 645 million passengers that fly domestically every year.

Education BEFORE getting on the flight??

If the flight attendants can't capture your attention while ON the aircraft where do you suppose "education" should come from otherwise? Seriously. I just about messed my pants from laughing so hard! For someone who travels so frequently it doesn't say much about your own credibility that you "know very little about what I'd actually have to do, or what I should do, if there was a serious situation." Instead of yukking it up with your seatmate and joking about the demo you may want to pull out that little safety card in front of you. It's the one with the airplane layout like the image above your article. Luckily you may never be in a situation that would require you to keep your wits about yourself and a smidgen of that demo stuck inside that head of yours.