October 16, 2013

The Top 10 Airline Safety Demonstrations

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Written by: Stephen Weisbrot
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Seldom are two flights ever alike. Sometimes you can have a fellow passenger screaming bloody murder and other times, the entire plane might just decide to dance. However, one constant that you can always expect when you plan to fly is the safety demonstration. They’re meant to be informative reminders of how to conduct yourself in the event of an emergency situation. The problem is at this point, we’ve all heard these safety demos a thousand times—buckle your seatbelt, no smoking, don’t inflate your life vest while still in the plane, etc.

Airlines however don’t show these just because the FAA or other governing authority mandates that they do. They do it because at the end of the day, flight attendants and pilots are there to ensure your safety first when getting from point A to point B. Serving you onboard is just an added perk. Believe it or not, some experts even recommend buckling and unbuckling your seatbelt three times before take-off. Sounds odd to you? It helps to commit it to your “muscle memory,” so that you will be better equipped to act fast should an emergency arise.

Airlines however have become savvy to the fact that you, the passenger essentially tune out when hearing the utterance, “May we please have your attention while we demonstrate the safety features of our aircraft.” Who can blame you? It’s the same old information presented in the same old way, right? Well, not anymore. Airlines have been stepping up their creative game in the way they deliver their safety briefings. Here are my top ten favorites. Enjoy!

10. Trans World Airlines

While the days of TWA ended back in 2001, they were one of the early airlines in the 1980s to show a safety demonstration video. I like this video because it’s a piece of 1980s nostalgia—who doesn’t like big hair and bad opening keytar music? It’s interesting to note the choice of the very attractive flight attendant who presents the video. I suppose that the old adage “sex sells” is used in an attempt to attract at least one gender’s attention. Also, smoking is only allowed when the no smoking sign is not illuminated. This video dates itself for sure.

9. American Airlines

Now, I know what you’re thinking and you’re right. There are certainly better examples of aviation creativity out there. However, you can’t knock American Airlines for trying—they even start out by thanking you, numerous times. I like this video because it makes me feel like the airline is one big family. The fact that all different employees from airport operations to tech ops present the video is a nice, honest touch.

8. Bangkok Airways

Let’s be honest here. How could an entire dancing flight crew, equipped with back up dancers in front of an aircraft not grab your attention? I don’t even particularly think that there is anything special about the actual safety content (although, kudos for the circa 90s video game music playing in the background), but that video just warms my heart. Proceed cautiously though. When we allow airlines to dance, this is what sometimes happens.

7. El Al

El Al doesn’t often make aviation news headlines with innovations on-board. That’s not to say that their safety demonstration is mundane by any means. There’s nothing not “kosher” about having a Tinkerbell-like flight attendant buzzing about the cabin. The animation is a nice light-hearted approach for Israel’s flag carrier.

6. Japan Airlines

This is the kind of video that makes me ask myself on numerous occasions, “Is this real life?” The combination of CGI and cartoon-like imagery is odd to say the least, but when they get to the emergency evacuation part of this video (3:57), you’ll wonder whether you’re watching a safety demonstration or a scene from a Godzilla movie. You decide and run for your lives!

5. Delta

Let’s put the record straight. The attempt at cleverness in Delta’s newer safety video is in my opinion, better-ish. Deltalina (aka Katherine Lee), however, steals my heart with every wag of her finger (fast forward to 1:51). Now, you might mention her finger’s cameo in the new safety videos, but in this author’s opinion, the usage of cleverly illustrated puns in Delta’s newer version doesn’t quite do it. The fact is that Deltalina is truly a captivating presenter with an iconic finger wag that nobody at Delta can outwag.

4. Thomson

Anytime we fly, we always dread that one baby on-board (who inevitably will sit right behind us) that will make what should be a quick flight from New York to Orlando, two and a half hours of screaming hell. That said, what could be cuter than an adorable toddler flight crew that has difficulty pronouncing the their “r” sounds? Thomson gets kudos for taking the normally mundane safety demonstration and presenting it in a way that’s sure to warm your hearts and inform you at the same time. The last seconds of the video (3:19) always kills me when I see the “pilot” thumbs up. Rock on little man.

3. Virgin America

“For the .001 percent of you that have never operated a seatbelt before, it works like this…” is just the kind of snark that I would expect from Virgin America. Talk about knowing your demographic. I’ve always admired the Virgin America brand for finding its brand voice early on and conducting their whole experience around it. The subtly humorous and often times crude animation certainly adds a level of interest. It’s even more engaging that there isn’t a flight attendant presenting the information, rather an omniscient narrator, filled with dry wit.

2. Air New Zealand

There certainly has been a lot of buzz recently around Air New Zealand’s seemingly endless array of creative safety videos, most recently with Betty White. However, this discofab video from 2011 with Richard Simmons is my personal favorite. I can’t decide if I love to hate it or hate to love it—maybe a bit of both. Whether you love it or are annoyed by it, I guarantee this will grab your attention and come on, it’s a fun way to present the necessary instructions. Also, the fantabulous spandex workout attire is something that shouldn’t be missed out on.

1. Southwest

That brings us to the number one airline safety demonstration, but it might not be what you’re expecting. Southwest has always been known for their warm on-board hospitality, but what about their rapping skills? This particular flight attendant, David Holmes by far would grab my full and undivided attention with his clever rhymes. There’s something to be said for sure in video production creatively and quality, but sometimes good old-fashioned live demonstrations are the best.

Do you agree with my selection? Be sure to tell me what some of your favorite airline safety demonstrations are.

Stephen Weisbrot joined NYCAviation in 2013. Stephen has a background in brand design, marketing, and strategy and is a resident of New York City. As a self-diagnosed #avgeek, he aspires to become a pilot one day as well. You can reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @StephenWeisbrot.

About the Author

Stephen Weisbrot



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