Zany travel safety videos, featuring singing, dancing, odd voices or full Hollywood productions, work by capturing the audience attention – but do the passengers remember the safety information or the jokes?
The subject was aired on National Public Radio (NPR) in the US last week, with Scott McCartney, who writes ‘The Middle Seat’ travel column for The Wall Street Journal, invited to comment.
A wild Virgin America video, all singing and dancing, hit the airwaves.
Take a look!
Then followed an excerpt from a famous Air New Zealand air safety video, Hobbit-themed, in which the safety message starts with: “Welcome to Middle Earth, my friend. I’m here to guide you on your journey. So cease your rabble-rousing and listen very carefully and obey all crew member instructions and all illuminated signs.”
McCartney told NPR that airlines started to add wacky safety videos about 2008 and 2009.
“Delta started having a little fun with a flight attendant who became known as Deltalina, for sort of aggressively wagging her finger at no smoking.
“But in 2009, Air New Zealand painted crew members with body paint and nothing else and did a safety video called ‘Bare Essentials,’ which got a lot of attention. And that led them down the path of lots of others and airlines started copying it.”
The safety message is always paramount and the words can’t be tinkered with too much.
So do they work? Do passengers pay more attention to a video with entertainment value?
McCartney says airlines track these things and the answer is yes, entertaining videos do work better, provided they are refreshed so they don’t become as humdrum as the old safety messages.
“But the real question with these is even if you pay more attention, what do you take away from it? The problem with humour is that people remember the jokes but not the safety message,” he said.
The safety message is vital, McCartney stressed, because “in an emergency, you revert to what you know”.
Emergency evacuations have seen people stuck in their seats, “even a pilot in one case”.
“It’s similar with life vests, where you have to buckle that strap around your waist.”
In the “Miracle on the Hudson” in 2009 – in which US Airways flight 1549 crashed into New York’s Hudson River and everyone survived – only four passengers out of about 150 properly put on their life vests. They evidently hadn’t paid enough attention to the safety message. They were fortunate in having highly competent and experienced pilot.
Written by Peter Needham