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April 15, 2010

In the Interests of Safety
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 04:15 PM * 91 comments

It’s a known problem in air travel that people don’t listen to the safety briefings.

The airlines try, of course. I’ve hear flight attendants quoting Paul Simon (“There are fifty ways to leave your lover, but only eight ways off of this plane”). Delta’s current safety video rides the line between amusing and cheesy. But it’s just plain difficult to get people to listen to the standard wording.

I think they need to get some professional entertainers in. Surely it would be possible to get some famous directors to do videos. How would Merchant and Ivory tackle the brief? How about Quentin Tarantino? Or they could give the list of mandatory points to a variety of authors and ask for more varied scripts than the cabin crew generally have to work with.

Here’s one approach to get you started (don’t feel you have to be this comprehensive all the time):

Hey now passengers, look up here and listen,
Time for safety-talk, nothing to be missing!
First the safety belt, buckled up and pulled tight
Open with a latch-lift, steel shining moon-bright.

On this airplane, eightfold are the ways out:
Front and back and over-wings we point out.
Watch and learn, and may I just remind you
That your nearest one may lie behind you.

If the cabin’s dark, gaze you down at the floor
Lights will shine out, make a path to the door.
Leave all bags behind, take no stabbing heel-shoes
Jump, don’t sit down, or the slides as rafts use.

Now beneath your seat a life vest
Put on just so, double bows will hold best.
Light and whistle, tube to take a breath-draft
Don’t inflate it till you leave the aircraft!

Hid above you, masks in their compartments
But if air grows thin in these apartments
They’ll drop swiftly. Fit your own as I’ve shown
Then when you’re safe, help those only half-grown.

On this airplane, none may smoke their pipe-weed
And you must obey the crew as they need.
If there’s safety knowledge that you still lack
See the card that sits inside your seat back.

Now is time for you to stow your cases
Under or over, fitting in their spaces.
Seat backs, tables, all should be upright now
Toys off, phones off, ready for our flight now!

Nota bene: You, gentle readers, are also authors whose approaches are welcome. In other words, feel free to add original poetry and prose as well as pastiches.

Comments on In the Interests of Safety:
#1 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2010, 04:50 PM:

On a December 23 many years ago*, the Delta crew on my flight did the whole thing in rhyme:

'Twas the flight before Christmas
And all through the plane
Were safety features
We now will explain...

I no longer remember the rest of it, but they got a hearty round of applause at the end. The only reason they didn't get a standing ovation is that by then we all had our seatbelts securely fastened.

*when the safety announcements were over the loudspeaker, not on a video

#3 ::: Victoria ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2010, 05:09 PM:

to the tune of 'Hey, Micky'

Oh, safety it's so fine,
its so fine it blows our mind
It's Safety! Flight safety!

'Cause let's face it. They've already got the uniforms and the drill team movements down. Might as well add some pompoms.

Now I must go and start filking in earnest.

#4 ::: Jon Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2010, 05:11 PM:

Last year I saw a brief CNN blurb about an air steward who did the safety briefing as a classic 1980s-style boombox rap. It was a) entertaining b) actually made people pay attention.

#5 ::: Aquila ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2010, 05:15 PM:

It's probably been mentioned here before, but this is the current Air New Zealand flight safety video The Bare Essentials of Safety

#6 ::: Matthew Brown ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2010, 05:16 PM:

Of course, half the reason we don't listen is that we've all heard it before, and the details rarely vary. Only difference is where the exits are, and I at least notice this getting on.

#7 ::: Evan Goer ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2010, 05:16 PM:

Jon -- I think you're thinking of the In Flight Safety Rap. Complete with audience participation!

#8 ::: Dan B. ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2010, 05:17 PM:

Quite frankly, if there were more safety announcements like this, I'd be more inclined to pay attention:

#9 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2010, 05:18 PM:

'Tis brillig, and your safety card,
Does gimble in the pocket, right?
All mimsy is your safety belt:
Snug it and lock it tight

Obey the lighted signs, my friend,
obey the crew, enjoy the ride;
Heed thou the lighted pathway to
the frumious exit slide

If oxygen masks start to fall
put yours on first; do not delay.
Like Tum-tum trees, your cushion floats;
You'll up your odds that way.

And if in uffish thought you sit
plotting to smoke, you plot in vain.
There's whiffling in the tulgey wood
But none aboard this plane.

One two, one two, we have for you
Nice lavatories fore and aft
But touch those smoke detectors and
We'll bust you. Don't be daft.

And hast thou put thy luggage up
in that nice bin above your seat?
Stow it away, Callooh Callay
Or put it by your feet.

We're making ready to depart
Seatbacks and trays may not be down.
Turn all arcane devices off
And we'll be off the ground.

#10 ::: Another Damned Medievalist ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2010, 05:58 PM:

I have to admit that I seldom pay close attention anymore. I get in my seat, buckle up (I'm one of those people who doesn't have to be told to stay buckled up), pull out the card, look to see if and where there are life vests, check for the exits, and vaguely listen to make sure that the life vests are where the card says.

Unless they put me in an exit row. I'm usually more attentive then.

#11 ::: Fran Walker ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2010, 06:08 PM:

Pacific Blue's TV advert show a safety "rap" that is quite good; I don't know if they do it in real life, though.

#12 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2010, 06:19 PM:

I remember one where we'd been sitting on the apron for an hour or so, waiting for thunderstorms to clear the flight path - this was in the summer, so they had the rear door open for air. The flight crew, along with all the passengers, was greatly relieved when we got clearance, and it's the only safety lecture I've met where 'designer Dixie cups will drop down from the ceiling'. (Yes, I pay attention to the lectures. They might be the most entertaining part of the trip.)

#13 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2010, 06:19 PM:

Quentin Tarantino doing the safety film? Why not just go ahead with David Cronenberg and get the body fluids out of the way right away?

(Since DC seems to have mellowed a bit, you could always go with David Lynch. Brian DePalma would be used for misogynistic flights.)

#14 ::: Mike Leung ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2010, 06:23 PM:

When we leave from the runway
You must set your seat back
Well I beg you consider
Three peanuts your snack
If you walked on cases
You must overhead them stow
We gotta keep seated
A volunteer by the do'
You'll face the fire and the fury
During a crashland
Well you can't yield to worry
That the door yields to your hand
To leave the plane sinking
If to the sea we go
We gotta keep seated
A volunteer by the do'

#15 ::: SOBoron ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2010, 06:28 PM:


#16 ::: Mike Leung ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2010, 06:29 PM:

Maybe that should be:

After leaving the runway
You may set your seat back...

#17 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2010, 06:34 PM:

Considering how many times these devices have ever been usefully used, the first thing that comes to mind is a cartoon from some college humor publication in the 60s showing a man looking at his TV, which is saying, "This has been a test of the Emergency Broadcasting System. Had it been a real alert, you'd all be dead by now."

I half-swiped it years later for a picture of a man in a broadcasting booth, putting on his jacket as he speaks into the microphone: "This is only a test. There is no need to block the major roads out of town..."

#18 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2010, 06:54 PM:

Kip W @ 17: Perhaps the safety info should be set to the tune of "Comin' In On A Wing And A Prayer."

#19 ::: Chris ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2010, 07:35 PM:

Ditto to #6 and #10. I fly often enough that I know the drill, I just stow my stuff, find the nearest 2 exits, sit down, and buckle in.

I can see why the staff get frustrated when people don't look like they're paying attention, since they have no way of peering inside our heads to see whether we already know all this.

As for things I don't think the stewards are supposed to say where passengers can hear them, I could swear I heard the steward at the end of a flight into Sacramento (airport code SMF) say "Welcome to Smurf."

It was very late at night ;)

#20 ::: Paul Lalonde ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2010, 08:01 PM:

I fly 4 times weekly. Mostly on the same aircraft (CRJ-400). In seat 3B. I only realized today that 3B is "my" seat - I was annoyed when it wasn't available for next week's bookings. It's not only become impossible for me to pay attention to the safety announcements, it appears to have turned into my signal to nap, from which I only wake again in time for service.

My biggest annoyance with the standard spiel is that it still starts with the seatbelt notice, but it comes after door closure which requires seat belts to already have been checked.

I did have the joy once of seeing Lufthansa's new-crew hazing announcement, which involved silly hats, dancing, and general mirth.

#21 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2010, 08:54 PM:

Whenever I hear the standard airline safety spiel, I have an immediate flash to Rap Replinger's version of the airline safety talk:

"... Beneath your seat you will find two party balloons. In the event that our luck RUNS OUT and we PLUMMET into the raging surf below, simply blow these balloons up and tie them to your shoulders with string. ... We hope that your stay on Kauai will be relaxing, pleasant, and unaffected by the recent HOTEL MURDERS that have been taking place on the island."

(Rap was a great comedian - I'm not doing justice to the tone and timing of the sketch.)

However, the wording of the safety talk on the last couple Hawaiian flights I was on was almost as funny - unintentionally, I assume:
"If the cabin loses pressure, oxygen masks will drop out of the compartment above your seat. Place them over your mouth and nose, and breath normally until instructed that you no longer need to do so."

I automatically imagine the subsequent announcement, "Attention, passengers: the flight crew has determined that all passengers and crew are now dead. You may now stop breathing."

#22 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2010, 09:05 PM:

Was this topic inspired by the fact that the entire fleet of passenger planes in the UK and much of northern Europe are grounded until further notice, due to volcanic dust?!

#23 ::: Jim Lund ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2010, 09:49 PM:

I've heard them many times, so now I do my best to ignore the safety announcements. They are a grating combination of carefully thought out emergency procedures and calculated dishonesty. "In the event of a water landing..."

#24 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2010, 10:00 PM:

Jim @ 23

Umm, dishonesty? Because water landings never happen? Or is it that they do happen but they're never survivable?

You might want to ask Captain Sully about that.

#25 ::: Andrew ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2010, 10:14 PM:

For the people who say that the safety procedures have no effect, talk to Stan Rogers.

#26 ::: Stephen Frug ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2010, 10:21 PM:

Re: #6, 10 et. al.,

I wonder if one key to getting people to really listen is not to repeat information that nearly everyone will know or can figure out (e.g. how to fasten a seatbelt (which can be easily shown to any particular passenger who needs help, since there won't be many)), and to focus ONLY on the things that actually differ from plane to plane, such as the location of the exits and life preservers. We tune out because so much is familiar that we miss the gold for the dross.

Which is to say: giving less might do more.

#27 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2010, 10:40 PM:

25 years ago (yikes, that long?) we had a flight attendant on a major airline who got us through a delay with plenty of free drinks and a dead-on imitation of JooOOOOlia Child. At the end of the flight he said, bluntly but with a smile, that the jet was going to taxi to the gate at a fairly high speed. So if anybody stood up while the "fasten seat belts" sign was on, they would fall down and the flight attendants would point and laugh.

Nobody stood up.

#28 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2010, 10:42 PM:

I do the "check for nearest emergency exits, ascertain type of flotation device available" thing out of habit, without listening to anything that's said, because I've heard the whole drill a hundred times. And, well, because I don't honestly believe half of it. They're telling us about what to do in a water landing for a flight over dry land from one land-locked city to another with no large rivers in the area. It just...doesn't seem likely to come up, you know?

But then, I'm also the sort of person who classifies heavy turbulence on commercial flights as "fun" so I may just have poor risk assessment abilities.

#29 ::: Elyse M. Grasso ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2010, 10:47 PM:

In 2005 I traveled between Denver and Albuquerque every week for a few months: always the same flight out of Denver on a small commuter airline subcontracted to Frontier, and usually the same flight crew. They had a standard spiel that was quite funny and tended to earn double-takes from people who had not heard it before. The two bits I still remember are the one about affixing your own oxygen mask "before assisting others such as husbands" and the one about what to do in the event of a water landing, which concluded: "and then stand up and wade to shore, because water between Denver and Albuquerque isn't going to be very deep."

The attendant who delivered the spiel was named John.

#30 ::: VCarlson ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2010, 12:08 AM:

One of the sit down, buckle up, check seat pocket card, look for exits (remembering to look behind me), and try to look encouragingly at the cabin crew telling me stuff I pretty much have memorized group.

Some years ago, as we were heading toward the gate and there was the usual cacophony of seatbelts being released, the flight attendant announced that, as we were on an active taxiway, and unbelting was dangerous, if anyone stood up, the plane would head right back to Chicago, where we would be required to clean all the outside windows with paper towels before trying again. People laughed, but no one stood up.

#31 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2010, 12:14 AM:

Clifton, #21: For some reason, that made me flash on Dream Park.

What's the title of the SF short story that involves time travelers snatching people who were due to have been killed (and their bodies not recovered) in airplane crashes?

#32 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2010, 12:30 AM:

Lee @31: That was John Varley's 'Air Raid'. This was adapted into the movie 'Millennium', for which he had also written a screen play, and did a novelization.

#33 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2010, 12:46 AM:

Saw the relative who spent decades in aviation radar a couple weeks ago. He said he stopped reading aviation accident reports five years ago. However, apparently did read the one on the ditching in the Hudson River. He said that another type of plane would have sunk not floated--there underside of that type of plane, from (European consortium I can't remember the name of) has a lever the pilot can pull that seals the bottom of the plane off so that if ditched water won't come in and sink it.

#34 ::: Fuzzy Chef ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2010, 01:23 AM:

Gallagher did a song for the airplane safety talk, a sort of folky thing, back in the early 80's. Doesn't seem to be on YouTube though, so I guess it must not have actually happened.

Anyway, I've always thought that it would be more fun if the staff did a little song and dance. Maybe starring the Armenian Airline Dance Crew.

Southwest Airlines staff have been known to liven things up a bit. I remember on a flight between Los Angeles and Phoenix being told "in the extremely unlikely event of a water landing, your seat cushion can be used as a flotation device. Or you can simply climb out of the pool."

#35 ::: Fuzzy Chef ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2010, 01:24 AM:

Gallagher did a song for the airplane safety talk, a sort of folky thing, back in the early 80's. Doesn't seem to be on YouTube though, so I guess it must not have actually happened.

Anyway, I've always thought that it would be more fun if the staff did a little song and dance. Maybe starring the Armenian Airline Dance Crew.

Southwest Airlines staff have been known to liven things up a bit. I remember on a flight between Los Angeles and Phoenix being told "in the extremely unlikely event of a water landing, your seat cushion can be used as a flotation device. Or you can simply climb out of the pool."

#36 ::: strangetikigod ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2010, 02:03 AM:

Abi, I just want to congratulate you on your instantly recognizable Tom Bombadil homage.

At least, I hope that's what you were aiming for, because that's what I got from the meter and rhyme scheme...

#37 ::: joel hanes ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2010, 02:20 AM:

The safety briefing comprises a ritualized series of words and accompanying gestures that must be performed.

I view it as a hula: a traditional ceremonial dance, required to placate the gods of air transport. Watch the familiar hand gestures for the seatbelt, for the oxygen masks, for the location of the exits -- so expressive, so formal.

#38 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2010, 03:30 AM:

strangetikigod @36:

Yes, it was Tom Bombadil. The meter's the key.

#39 ::: Kevin Riggle ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2010, 03:39 AM:

What they said about having heard the safety presentation too many times to actually pay attention, though checking for the locations of the exits is a good idea, which I shall start doing.

What's the Liam Neeson(?) movie where some hijackers do a parody of the airplane safety presentation/mime where every line ends with "...or you will be shot" or words to that effect? ("Fasten your seatbelt by placing the metal tab into the buckle until it clicks, and pulling on the strap until the belt is snug against your waist (demonstrates), or you will be shot (finger-gun in a sweeping motion).") My Google-fu is failing me.

#40 ::: Dave Langford ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2010, 03:59 AM:

#37 The safety briefing comprises a ritualized series of words and accompanying gestures that must be performed.

I fondly remember Alan Moore's astral-plane travel in Smax. "In the unlikely event of this transfer entering a nether-dimension, make the following gestures ..." [familiar postures here] "These will deter nether-wraiths, and summon the blessed host of Krishini to assist you. You may also experience a popping in your ears ..."

#41 ::: Colette ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2010, 08:34 AM:

Last year we flew on Westjet from Vancouver to Montreal. The stewardess standing half way down the plane (and next to where we were sitting) delivered the safety instructions via the medium of interprative dance. Everyone in the plane was in stitches and paid attention (well, as much as they could through the laughter). Being a Canadian plane, she then had to do the whole thing again to a French commentary - this time she did it straight, commenting to us when she was done that it wasn't nearly as funny in French.

#42 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2010, 09:10 AM:

I thought about warping the lyrics for Men Without Hats' Safety Dance, but the task may be beyond my ability.

#43 ::: theophylact ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2010, 09:39 AM:

I was once on a connecting flight where the flight attendant said "In the unlikely event that one of you hasn't been in a car since 1960, I will now demonstrate the use of a seat belt."

#44 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2010, 10:40 AM:

theophylact (43): I literally laughed out loud at that one. Although, to be fair, modern car seatbelt-fasteners are rather different than the ones the airlines are still using.

#45 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2010, 11:31 AM:

Ah, car seat belts! Yes, it's true that modern cars don't use the locking latchplate anymore, but plenty of people still drive those kinds of cars. A 1996 van driven by nice folks with two small daughters, for example; luckily for me, only one child needed a Forward Facing Child Seat; the other was old enough for a booster seat.

Yes, I proudly admit to becoming a seat belt geek. Is it so wrong to walk past cars and assess the child seats within? How about if I ride with someone else and see that the rear seats have LATCH across the back? All three locations?

#46 ::: DanR ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2010, 11:51 AM:

Gather round gentle trav'lers, and take heed,
For soon this aircraft shall push up to speed,
If you fail to clip in, you'll smash your head,
Heap clouds are no joke; one jounce and you're dead.

As for the rest of the spiel, don't fret it,
Should we take a dive, masks won't count one bit
Go 'head, smoke, walk around, hell, fornicate,
No 'crash position' will forestall your fate.

#47 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2010, 01:36 PM:

I'm another in the "check the stuff I can meaningfully check, and pay attention even though I could probably give the presentation" group.

Things I do that I have never yet needed, but might someday:
- count seatbacks to the nearest exits (forward and back). Last time I was in a nearly pessimal seat; 7 rows forward to the window exit, 6 rows back to the doors. ("Nearly" pessimal == aisle seat.)
- check for the life vest, on aircraft with overwater equipment.
- look at the card to see which exits should be used in a water landing, which slides are designed to be used as rafts, and where any additional rafts are stowed.

Why I don't worry about turbulence breaking the wing: the 787's wing stress test.

#48 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2010, 01:56 PM:

For those wanting illustrations of aviation-related hula dance, the Spontoon Islands Website may be worth a look.

#49 ::: Annalee Flower Horne ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2010, 02:19 PM:

Southwest definitely has the best safety briefs I've ever sat through. The bits I remember:

Air Masks: "If we anticipated a change in cabin pressure, we wouldn't work here, but in the unlikely event..."

on not smoking: "Disabling a smoke alarm on board an airplane will get you a $2,000 ticket--and if you wanted one of those, you would have flown United."

Luggage shifts during flight: "Please exercise care when removing luggage from the overhead compartments. Your suitcase may get excited and jump out to say hello."

#50 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2010, 05:07 PM:

I am convinced that Southwest's flight attendant school includes a class in "How to do Standup Comedy". I have yet to take a Southwest flight where the Official Announcements didn't leave me giggling.

#51 ::: Victoria ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2010, 05:28 PM:

It seems Air New Zealand has challenged Southwest Air to head down under and make the ultimate safety video mashup.

#52 ::: Jules ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2010, 05:47 PM:

I've been flying budget airlines too often, I guess. Don't remember the last flight I was on where the safety announcement wasn't prerecorded...

#53 ::: Tania ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2010, 07:33 PM:

This is just to suggest
that you fasten
the safety belt
that holds you in
the seat

Notice the exits
you will probably
need them
when leaving

Pay attention
they are illuminated
so bright
and so cold

#54 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2010, 10:33 PM:

As to the seat belts, I was on a flight once where the attendant said something along the lines of "And here's the safety belt - if you don't know how to use this, you probably shouldn't be allowed out unattended."

#55 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2010, 11:17 PM:

Now sit up straight, and you'll hear a tale,
A tale of a short-haul trip,
That started from this small airport,
And won't involve a ship. (It won't involve a ship!)

The mate is a guy of twenty-three,
The skipper's got grey hairs,
Please listen to this safety spiel
Before we climb the stairs. (Before we climb the stairs.)

The weather might be getting rough,
Do not get up, you goof,
If you are not sitting with your belt done up,
Your head will dent the roof. (Your head will dent the roof!)

For all that you need, consult the card
We put with the bags for barf,
And travelogues, the magazine, a catalogue (very cheap!), a drinkies list, entertainment and seating plan,
Whoops! We're starting descent!

#56 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2010, 02:34 AM:

Generally, I sit down, figure out where the exits are, what flotation devices are available and then pull out a magazine.

The last safety video to catch my attention was Virgin America's It even appears to have Sister Wendy in it.

#57 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2010, 10:14 AM:

I keep hearing things about Southwest that make it sound like I'd enjoy taking a flight with them.

Unfortunately, my hips are wide enough that they'd make me buy two seats, so I shall decline the privilege.

Note: my hips are not nearly as wide as many Americans' ...

#58 ::: Alex ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2010, 12:23 PM:

Flying on Virgin Atlantic to Orlando late last year, I discovered that Shakira's "She Wolf" makes a remarkably good soundtrack to a bout of clear-air turbulence. I also discovered that the IFE system operates at some odd nonstandard voltage that caused my new Sennheisers to perceptibly heat up in my ear canals and develop a variety of unpleasant sound artefacts.

#59 ::: Anticorium ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2010, 06:09 PM:

Proving that there are in fact some depths to which I will not sink, my inflight safety video as directed by David Mamet will remain mostly unshared.

"A. Always. B. Buckle. C. Continuously."

#60 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2010, 06:50 PM:

Someone needs to invent an abrasion-resistant airplane engine system to deal with volcanic ash. We're going to need it here in the States after the Yellowstone super-volcano blows.

#61 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2010, 07:09 PM:

My usual strategy for air travel is check where the exits are, then pull out a book on a short flight or go to sleep on a long one.

I started toying with something to the tune of "Pirelli's Miracle Elixir", but this is as far as I got:

Ladies and gentlemen, may I have your attention please?
Do you start every plane flight with yawns and despair
To discover the spiel is lacking in flair,
And you snooze in your chair?
Well, ladies and gentlemen, from now on you can take flight with ease.
You need never again have a worry or care,
If your seat back is up on your cramped little chair.
Everyone, you are about to see something much better instead,
So listen to what's said.

Click the seat belt,
Pull the end to tighten,
Lift the flap to undo,
True, sir, true.
Keep it buckled
When you're in your seat, sir,
Even when the sign's off,
It's better for you.

#62 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2010, 07:22 PM:

The one thing that I, and I suspect most experienced fliers, could actually use in the safety briefings usually isn't there: the specific locations of the emergency exits. Often it just says "look at the card in your seat pocket" (a delightful object with no text in any Earth language) or invites me to look around for the exit nearest me. At most it may say "wings and two front doors" or the like. If they want me to pay attention to a briefing I've heard most of several times before, I want them to repay that attention by telling me "there are front and rear doors, and wing exits at aisle 22. The last row of the plane is 30. Take the time now to figure out your closest exit."

Instead, they instruct me to look around to locate the nearest exit: after I've been instructed (ordered?) to fasten my seatbelt and place the seat back upright. Not the easiest move, especially if I'm not in an aisle seat.

#63 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2010, 02:49 PM:

On a Chinook once:
"All right, lads. Now, this heli has two engines. I'm not going to mess you about here: if they both fail, we'll fall out of the sky and we'll probably all die. But if we survive, here's what to do - wait till we stop rolling and then get out as fast as you can through the hatch, the windows, or any other holes in the airframe that may have appeared."

And, apparently, on Southwest:
"If you are travelling with a small child, make sure your own mask is properly fitted before helping them put theirs on. If you are travelling with more than one small child, pick your favourite."

#64 ::: Dr Paisley ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2010, 10:43 PM:

Evan @ #7 -- That's what I was expecting when we flew NWA from KC to Boston, along with gin & juice and blunts on the refreshment cart.

Coming back from ConJosé via Denver, we changed from the Barbie Dream Jet (their description) to a 7x7. During the pre-flight checks, the pilot asked for a cross-check. One of the flight attendants immediately replied, "Cross-check is salubrious." Our row applauded.

#65 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2010, 02:22 AM:

Dr Paisley @ 64: we flew NWA

Straight outta Compton?

from KC to Boston

Oh, well.

#66 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2010, 08:51 AM:

The one I remember from Southwest was for people who didn't stay seated while the aircraft was taxiing to the gate after landing. "If you're currently standing at your seat, you should have an excellent view of the 'Fasten Seatbelt' sign, which is still lit."

I used to dislike Southwest's cattle call seating, but since they went to boarding in order by boarding pass number, I like them quite a bit.

#67 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2010, 11:08 AM:

Last year, I was on a flight seated next to an off-duty pilot. Several times through the flight, the attendant stopped and had a very low-voiced conversation with him. I asked him what was going on, and he told me that one of the passengers was being rude and uncooperative, and that the attendant might need his help.

As the plane started its descent, the idiot refused to put on his seat belt -- told the attendant that he couldn't figure out how to do it, and that she needed to fasten it for him. She told him several times to buckle up; he kept refusing.

On our arrival, there was a brief delay before the plane completed its connection to the gate. This was to allow the idiot to be escorted from the plane by a couple of large and professionally surly officers. "What part of 'it is a federal offense to disobey the directives of a flight official' do you not understand?"

I remember another flight in which the captain stopped taxiing towards the gate and told the passengers that he would not proceed until everybody sat down and buckled up again.

#68 ::: kid bitzer ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2010, 11:11 AM:


another nice variation:

this heli has two engines. if the first one fails, the second one has sufficient power to fly us all the way to the crash site.

#69 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2010, 11:13 AM:

Earl, if Yellowstone blows out like it has in the past, airplane flight may be the least of our worries.

#70 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2010, 11:44 AM:

Earl @60 --

Volcanic ash is only ash to a geologist; it's otherwise weird powdered glass, hard, abrasive, and refractory, and if it hadn't got scattered through the sky it'd be somewhere in the kin of granite, basalt, and obsidian.

"eat granite fast" is a challenging design requirement without the implied "as a side effect of being an air-breathing combustion engine", "with aircraft power-to-weight ratios", and "at temperatures where everything is chemistry" requirements.

Me, I figure this is Loki's notion of a kindness; we're on track to have the hottest year in recorded history, and, should that veil of ash persist, it's quite likely to reduce ground temperatures and thus European heat wave deaths by some non-trivial amount.

The Yellowstone hot spot having a real eruption, well, a good time to have a half-acre greenhouse, grow lights, and very reliable power down an old mine somewhere.

#71 ::: Wendy Grossman ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2010, 11:47 AM:

Personally, I'd favor just using the George Carlin version.


#72 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2010, 12:09 PM:

My favorite helicopter story (which is probably apocryphal) concerned a copter that was carrying a crew from an oil platform back to shore.

The engine quit, and they started auto-rotating down to the water. The pilot, in an attempt to calm the passengers, said, "Don't worry, these things are supposed to float."

Small voice from the back: "Yeah. It was supposed to fly, too."

#73 ::: Lin Daniel ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2010, 12:32 PM:

Some years back, I took a turboprop from Chicago to some itty bitty airport with only five gates, somewhere in Illinois. Plane was five seats across, probably 60 seats total or a little more, had only one flight attendant.

Who went completely blank on the safety drill.

So we all did it for her. She held up the safety belt, then the oxy mask, then pointed at the exits. We pretty much recited the drill in unison, except for the exits bit. Some did the "over water" segment at the same time others did "how to use the slide." We had a great time doing it.

After it was over, I gave the FA my short version of "how to stand up in a cramped space, turn around, unhook your seat cushion to use as a flotation device, while the plane is sinking in the water, while the people next to you are attempting the same gymnastics." She thought it hysterical.

#74 ::: Lin Daniel ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2010, 12:41 PM:

SOBoron @ #15
Bad Landings:
I actually heard this one. There was a momentary lull in the conversation.

"There may be 50 ways to leave your lover, but there are only 4 ways out of this airplane..."

#75 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2010, 02:44 PM:

OtterB @ 66: "If you're currently standing at your seat, you should have an excellent view of the 'Fasten Seatbelt' sign, which is still lit."

The more I hear about Southwest in this thread, the more I like it. I will probably wind up flying with them some time.

#76 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2010, 06:44 PM:

While my favorite airlines are Pacific Wings and their competitors, if you're not flying between the Hawaiian Islands, or to destinations outside the US (volcano-infested or otherwise) Southwest isn't bad. They used to be a rather no-frills flying bus, back when other US airlines were fancier; these days they're a well-run no-frills flying bus, and the formerly-nicer airlines are rude, surly, and charge for things that used to be standard, like seats that you could use a laptop in, or baggage, or food, or breaking guitars. For a while their standard oxygen-mask spiel tended to include "if you're traveling with a small child, or someone acting like one". At least once the announcement after landing included "once you're in the terminal, please remain from smoking until you've left the state of California."

A friend of mine, who's a small-plane pilot, was once on a commercial flight that was landing in bad weather, so the crew did the standard announcements about lean forward and brace yourself against seat in front of you, and a reasonable number of passengers responded with "and kiss your ass goodbye."

#77 ::: Cheryl ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2010, 07:10 PM:

On one particular Southwest flight, we had to make several short hops, landing something like 4 times between Detroit and Albuquerque. Every landing was worse than the last, and every time the Flight Attendant would make a new joke about the bad landing (the only one I remember was 'now you know what an aircraft carrier landing feels like!'). As we were leaving the plane in ABQ, the FA and the Pilot were standing by the door to say the 'thanks for flying...' bit, and the FA was castigating him the whole time, as he stood there hangdog. The only phrase I heard clearly was, "Did you forget there was a runway at the bottom!?" Also, when they were handing out peanuts, they tossed them from the front of the plane, making baseball-patter type remarks.

Considering they have pretty good fares, and two free checked bags, yeah, I'd fly 'em again.

#78 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2010, 07:17 PM:

What's really needed is a little ditty along the lines of "Passengers will please refrain." Make it sufficiently earworm-like, and you could just start every flight with a jolly old sing-along.

#79 ::: Lin Daniel ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2010, 08:30 PM:

Southwest is my first choice. Their sense of humor is slightly warped, their attitude is friendly, and they seem to care about their passengers. Or enough so that I don't feel like an animated piece of baggage cluttering up the plane like I do on other airlines.

Once, stuck on the tarmac waiting for thunderstorms to clear, we had a bunch of rowdies heading to Vegas to celebrate. It was obvious they'd already started drinking their celebration. Rather than try to get them to shut up and sit down, the Southwest FAs encouraged singing while sitting down, rude remarks between rowdies while sitting down, and general misbehavior *while sitting down.* The rowdies got to be rowdy, but remained in their seats. We all joined in on several versions of Happy Birthday, that being the celebration in question. I'm sure there were passengers uncomfortable with the behavior, but it could most definitely have been worse. I thought it great fun.

#80 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2010, 08:46 PM:

I was on a Southwest flight once, where the cockpit crew referred to it as the 'Sunset Limited', and made train noises.

The only other airline I've met that was as crazy was the old PSA, where one pilot joked about following I-5 from LA to the bay area, and the cabin crew once announced that they'd be around to collect the cups, cans, watches, rings, and valuables before landing. (And another crew had a minute of silence for the people who had died in a crash a week or two earlier.)

#81 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2010, 08:49 PM:

Oh, yeah, the guys going there for somebody's 21st birthday. One of whom did a rather nice drunken fall and roll over an inanimate object, after getting off the plane in Vega$.

#82 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2010, 08:49 PM:

Southwest is problematic for fat people.

Not only do they have a two seat requirement, they don't have official standards for who needs two seats. You buy your ticket and show up, then they decide.

#83 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2010, 08:49 PM:

Southwest is problematic for fat people.

Not only do they have a two seat requirement, they don't have official standards for who needs two seats. You buy your ticket and show up, then they decide.

#84 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2010, 08:55 PM:

Jacque #78: This would of course be titled "The Passengers' Refrain"....

#85 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2010, 01:48 PM:

Joel@67: Ah, "Don't make me stop this plane!"

General: I, too, am rather tired of the safety spiels. They do change slowly over time -- some of the early flights I was on weren't pressurized, so there were no oxygen masks. Also they didn't have lighting at floor level to guide me to the exits. (I've been taking flights since at least 1958, when I was 4).

The one thing that varies importantly is where I am relative to the exits, and I have to work that out for myself (I, too, count seats to pass, on the theory that if it becomes important, it may well be dark and smoky).

This is one of those things I expect to continue to have to put up with. I don't really think they should stop giving them; everybody has a first flight, and most of us probably need to hear this stuff more than once anyway. Plus it may change significantly in the future still.

Frontier Airlines does somewhat idiosyncratic safety briefings sometimes, too.

#86 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2010, 10:08 PM:

I'm late for this game, but I'm always late these days.

Says Red Molly to James, "Sure, this aeroplane's nice,
But I just don't like flying--care to share your advice?"
Says James to Red Molly, "It's designed to go far--
It's a Boeing triple-7 200LR.
You'll see there at the corners all the exits are lit,
And your O-mask will drop if there's any need of it,
And if this plane becomes a boat
Your seat cushion will keep you afloat."

#87 ::: DensityDuck ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2010, 06:52 PM:

I recall being on Delta Airlines a few years back (as in, 2004 time frame) and the actor-playing-a-flight-attendant in the safety video was none other than Bruce Campbell! I kept waiting for the camera to pan down and show that all the passengers in the video were Deadites.

#88 ::: Johnny Whitson ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2010, 01:15 PM:

I was on a U.S. Airways flight from Phoenix to Santa Barbara.
The flight attendant (Rose Marie Burrell) had the most interesting Preflight Safety Briefing. It was very interesting and very informative. She used humor to get her message across to the passengers. I have flown on many airlines and I think the way she presented her briefing got the attention of every passenger on the airplane.

#89 ::: Benjamin Wolfe ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2011, 08:24 PM:

I'm quite happy with the videos these days. Even if Continental's talking head looks like a spammer has taken up residence on his head.

#90 ::: P J Evans sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2013, 01:23 PM:

Not sure what they're trying to sell, but it's still spam.

#91 ::: Carrie S. sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2013, 01:23 PM:

In the language of flowers.

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