Are Passengers Paying Attention to In-Flight Safety Videos?

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ICAO provides guidance material, supports a proactive strategy for improving safety performance and establishes Standards and recommended Practices to help service providers interpret and implement them – the expectation is that those practices and standards will be far-reaching.

Condé Nast Traveler, a lifestyle travel magazine that focusses on literary journalism and news reporting, looked at commercial aircraft – where in-flight safety videos are shown on more than 100,000 scheduled flights every day – and wondered out loud whether passengers are paying attention to the message.

Their feelings were mixed on whether airlines should be taking a new, more creative approach to teaching their passengers about safety, or whether they should keep it old school in keeping their attention. Here’s what their editors had to say to say:

I grew up flying to and from Texas on Southwest Airlines, which means I didn’t hear the standard flight attendant spiel until I was in my teens. The safety routine I knew was filled with jokes, the occasional song, and a whole lot of “y’all”s. Now, I fly more than just Southwest but I still appreciate it when a little flair is thrown into the speech most have us have heard hundreds of times. Do I know almost all of the words to Virgin America’s safety song? Maybe. Because at this point, that’s what it’s going to take to actually get me to pay attention.”- Meredith Carey, Assistant Digital Editor

“Some may say safety videos have waded too far into the “getting on my nerves” category, but I think that’s better than where we were a decade ago, when flight attendants opened a safety card every few rows and tried to make eye contact with no one who would return it. Some praise, here, for changing with the times: Unlike many of the very airlines that play them, these videos have been adapted to become sleeker and more modern, and to capture an audience with a dwindling attention span. Why not throw Richard Simmons in there, dancing and distilling the best safety evacuation practices, or feature Anna Faris making her way through a hybrid Western-safety-romance-thriller-cop movie? The odds of a plane crash are statistically low, but it nevertheless pays to be informed. And wouldn’t you rather watch Gerard Piqué fasten his seatbelt than a flight attendant? —Katherine LaGrave, Associate Digital Editor

According to Lilit Marcus, Contributing Digital Editor, Airplane safety briefings are sort of like Law & Order reruns. “you’ve seen every episode so many times that you already know who the bad guy is, but there’s something comforting about watching it for the thousandth time. However, there is no quicker way to get me to dislike an airline than watching a cutesy safety video packed with C-list celebrities or a bunch of expensive animation. It inevitably makes me realize that I’m watching said video on a small, low-quality screen just inches away from my seatmate’s because the airline has cut costs by decreasing pitch size yet again and would rather spend their money on a two-minute video than on you, the passenger. Just give me the facts in a straightforward way and then give me a snack I don’t have to pay for.”

“The moment the preflight safety video begins I glaze over, presumably in response to the inconceivable flurry of dance routines, bad acting, and raps about oxygen masks that make me lose all sense of what I’m supposed to be watching. I get that it’s meant to be an entertaining way to help travelers engage with important safety advice especially kids but, trapped in my airline seat, I stop listening to the video and desperately look around for a means of escape. Irritation aside, I’m usually left remembering the bizarre celebrity cameo but not how to inflate my life jacket. Give me the conventional safety demonstration in the middle of an aisle any day.” —Lale Arikoglu, Associate Digital Editor.

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