5 Things Flight Safety Presentations Should Mention
Flying can be a nerve-racking experience. As if dealing with long lines and TSA agents with a penchant for inappropriate touching aren't bad enough, you also get to quietly wonder if yours is the plane that will malfunction in some horrific manner and slam into the business side of a mountain. Sure, statistically speaking, you're much safer flying than driving, but that's little relief when you're in the air and completely unable to control what's happening. It also doesn't help that each flight kicks off with a safety video.
While the heads up about what to do if things take a turn for the Buddy Holly is a nice touch, it also serves as a stark reminder that you being that high in the air stands in direct opposition to the laws of gravity. A plane crash is the last thing you want to think about when flying, but it's the first thing that comes to mind once that video starts.
In addition to being secretly terrifying, there's another major flaw with flight safety videos. In short, they aren't long enough. Information about exits and illuminated aisles is great, but there are plenty of tips that should be discussed but never are.
Here are five things every flight safety video should (but doesn't) address ...
The Potential Ramifications of Not Turning Off Electronic Devices
Of all the complaints about in-flight safety, none ruffles more feathers than the infamous "Turn off all electronic devices" rule. Sure, it makes sense that you can't be on your cellphone. No good can come from having air traffic controller instructions to the pilot being intercut with bursts of your yenta of a mother nagging you about not calling enough. That seems like something that could totally happen. But what's the harm in getting in a little Angry Birds time while you taxi on the runway?
Seriously, can anyone answer that question? What sort of catastrophe will firing up your Kindle actually lead to? That's all we want to know. Here's the thing, though. Apparently, even the airlines aren't completely sure what harm lies in using your Sony Discman while on the runway (other than the obvious harm to your reputation that comes from still using a portable CD player like the 2000s never even existed).
Seriously, just cut those wrists.
Most of the explanations boil down to six simple words: Something might but probably won't happen. It's true that all wireless devices emit radio waves that could, in theory, interfere with computer controls in the cockpit. There's even one recorded instance of a laptop causing the autopilot on a plane to disengage. When that happened, the airline actually bought the laptop from the passenger so they could study it. Despite repeated attempts, they were never able to duplicate the problem. But still, just the fact that it's possible is good enough reasoning for me. People win the lottery all the time. I sure as shit don't want to be on the plane that wins the "Holy fuck that guy's electronic Sudoku game just caused the engine to shut down" lottery.
So why don't they just say that instead of being so vague about the issue? If airlines want people to stop bitching about this seemingly pointless rule, all they need to do is tell us why it's a rule in the first place. It would be as simple as changing the "Please turn off all electronic devices" line from the safety video to "Please turn off all electronic devices or else this entire fucking plane might fall from the sky and turn into a fireball of death that will kill everyone on board and several people on the ground." Maybe follow it up with a shot of an actual plane crash. If that doesn't get Alec Baldwin to stop playing Word With Friends, nothing will.
How Reclining Your Seat Will Result in the Person Behind You Wishing You Were Dead
OK, so this probably doesn't apply to people in first class. In fact, nothing applies to people in first class. Those people are rich, and therefore live well above the laws and constraints of the common man. But if you're flying coach, understand this ... just because your seat is capable of reclining doesn't mean it's a feature you should take advantage of.
Flight safety videos briefly touch on the subject of reclining seats, but what they fail to mention is "Hey, asshole, I'm working with six inches of personal space back here, sit upright or I will cut your throat with the plastic knife from my $17 tapas snack box." And for that sentence, I've probably been added to every no-fly list imaginable. But I don't care, because someone needs to talk to these people.
Fine, this representation of me when I had more hair will do it.
What benefit are you getting from putting your seat back in the reclining position? It moves like four centimeters. And what, now you're comfortable enough to sleep? That barely noticeable alteration of posture was the deciding factor in whether or not you could take a nap? Of course not. You're not reclining for comfort. There's nothing comfortable about flying coach, reclining seats or otherwise. No, you're reclining because you're a self-centered prick who doesn't respect your fellow passengers. Flying coach is a mutually shitty situation for everyone involved. It's already so cramped that most people would just opt to die of a heart attack rather than go through the hassle of trying to contort their body into a position that would allow them to fish their nitroglycerin pills out of the carry-on bag stowed underneath the seat in front of them. Why would you worsen the situation by reclining and therefore taking up even more space?
I know it's a long shot, but I believe airlines would be doing us all a huge favor by mentioning this in their flight safety videos. Maybe just a simple reminder that, yes, you are technically able to recline your seat, but it's intensely aggravating to the people behind you, so maybe consider not doing it. Perhaps they could follow it up with a warning that the air marshal may not reach you in time to keep the person whose lap you've been laying in for the last four hours from strangling you with a neck pillow. We would all be much happier fliers if reclining your seat in coach finally got the stigma it so rightly deserves. Bringing up this simple bit of air travel etiquette in the safety video would do just that.
How Best to Enter the Restroom When Another Person Is Exiting
Mentions of the restroom in the flight safety video are mostly restricted to a stern warning that disabling the smoke alarm so you can fire up a Newport is punishable by death (I'm paraphrasing). Naturally, they don't actually show anyone smoking in the "lavatory" because that would instill confidence in passengers that maybe they could get away with it. Instead, they just give you a shot of a person exiting the restroom, smiling from ear to ear, most likely because they avoided being sucked through the toilet when flushing it. Don't even pretend you don't worry about that when you fly.
But anyone who has ever used an airline restroom knows that exiting with a smile on your face is not likely to happen. Sure, you might initially be smiling, but that smile will fade when you realize that another person is waiting to enter and the two of you must now figure out how to pass each other without one of you literally sitting on another passenger's lap. It's not like the aisles are designed for maximum maneuverability. Hell, if the flight attendant is bringing the drink cart down the aisle, you'd have an easier time getting to one of the wings than getting back to your seat. The maximum number of people who can comfortably walk down the aisle of an airplane is approximately one half. Maybe an entire person, but only if you have a severe eating disorder.
You're now free to move about the cabin.
This problem is compounded when two people are trying to enter and exit the restroom. Assuming you're using the coach bathroom at the back of the plane, which you are, because you're poor, you really only have one option. The person exiting has to step back and stand in that forbidden zone where all of the flight attendants hang out, which ultimately results in them shooting you a look on par with a guard in a prison tower noticing a person wearing orange when all the inmates are supposed to be locked down in their cells. Either that, or you both put your backs to either side of the aisle and try to slide past each other, in which case you might as well just strip and have intercourse. You're touching genitals anyway, might as well make it official.
Call me crazy, but I think after all these years of being in business, someone in the airline industry has to have mastered a technique to make this exchange a little easier to navigate. Like a little hip pivot or something that magically frees all involved to freely pass without rubbing crotches or putting their ass in some unlucky passenger's face. Undoubtedly, this secret has to have been passed around and become a trade secret by now. So please, put that shit in the flight safety video and let us all in on the fun instead of making fun of us as we struggle to move in that flying prison cell that you call coach.
Explaining the Concept of Mortality to Your Children
There comes a time in every flight safety video where lighthearted tips about not smoking in the bathroom are set aside to focus on the really important stuff. That important stuff, of course, being what to do in the event that everything goes horribly awry. And rest assured, if the oxygen masks have dropped from the ceiling, things have indeed gone horribly awry.
Flight safety videos are full of helpful tidbits on how to properly use the oxygen mask. Anyone who has flown a time or two knows the basics. Put the mask over your face, pull the cord, put yours on before helping someone else (as if that wasn't the plan anyway), etc. They demonstrate the point about putting your own mask on first by showing a mother and child doing the oxygen mask dance together.
As heartwarming as it is to see a mother and child bonding over their newly diminished ability to breathe, the flight safety video completely downplays the gravity of the situation. Children aren't calm and well behaved even under ideal flight conditions. Once you factor a life-threatening lack of oxygen into the equation, expect nothing short of kindergarten chaos. At the very least, you're going to have to come up with a good way to explain why your child shouldn't be concerned about the predicament you're in when several seemingly normal adults around them are in full-on panic mode. And that's just the best case scenario. I can find no reason to sugarcoat the worst case scenario, so I'm just going to come out and say it ... you might have to explain to your child that you're both about to die.
"Hey, remember when you said you miss grandma? Well ..."
With that in mind, would it be too much to ask for the flight safety video to give some pointers in this area? It's not like explaining things to kids is easy. That's probably why my parents never had the "sex talk" with me, and they had plenty of years to figure out how to do it. But an impending death by plane crash is the very definition of a high pressure situation. Why not give the parents on the plane a little bit of insight into how best to explain to their child that they're about to go to the same place that grandma and the family dog went? That's not an easy talk to have, you know? Since the airline is telling us how to avoid death, would it be too much to ask for them to explain how to break it to the kid that their tragic demise is all but imminent?
How to Put on the Life Vest (While Contemplating Your Inevitable Death)
There is no more absurd moment in a flight safety video than the scene where people have to put on the life vests. There's no way a person is calm under those circumstances. What you have to look forward to once the life vest becomes necessary is a water landing. Do you know why that Captain Sullenberger guy is so famous? Because he managed to pull off a water landing without killing everyone on the plane. That doesn't normally happen.
Despite the horrifying implications that come with needing to reach under your seat and pull out the life vest, the flight safety video makes it seem like a downright enjoyable experience. When your flight has reached that point, it's a pretty safe bet that everyone on board will be losing their minds. But if the video is to be believed, the line of thinking is more like "Did the captain just say something about a water landing? That sounds refreshing! It's a scorcher out there, I could go for a dip in a dirty river right about now!"
"Oh my God! Yellow is my favorite color!"
Right, nobody is thinking that. The minute you hear "water landing," you start thinking about all of the people you wish you'd treated better and all of the opportunities you wish you hadn't passed up on. In other words, you start contemplating how fully you've lived your life. And somehow, in the midst of all that, you're supposed to remember the life vest operating instructions as presented in a safety video that you paid little to no attention to? Sorry, but that doesn't seem likely to me.
If flight safety videos really want to make an impact, they should show things as they will really be. Don't tell us how to put on a life vest under ideal conditions. There are no ideal conditions under which being thousands of feet in the air would require a person to strap on a flotation device.
I understand that a lot of what I've been saying here falls into the realm of fantasy. There's no chance in hell that flight safety videos will ever address the annoyance of people in front of you reclining their seats. But damn, can we at least be honest about the life vest situation? The stakes are pretty goddamned high at that point. It's essential that the assembled passengers get it right if the need for a life vest arises. Do us all a favor and depict the situation as it's really going to be. Nobody is going to smile contentedly while putting on a life vest during a flight. It's far more likely that they'll be wondering what their mother will think when she hears that her beloved child died while wearing insanely soiled underwear. If you don't get that, what I'm saying is that most people will shit their pants upon hearing that the plane is going down.
Listen, I'm not expecting flight safety videos to accurately depict the pants shitting, but please, at least tell me how to put the life vest on while simultaneously praying to my maker. Death by plane crash is kind of a big moment, I just want to be properly prepared.
For more from Adam, check out The 5 Most Ridiculous Causes to Ever Get a Website and The 5 Most Ridiculously Over-Hyped Health Scares of All Time.