If you’ve ever flown on a plane, you know the drill: after you take your seat and the cabin doors are shut, you ready yourself to wait on the runway and tune out the sounds of the boring safety presentation. Unfortunately, that disinterest in those potentially life-saving procedures could put you in real danger if an incident should occur. Airline carriers and flight attendants know it’s a real problem — which is why some are thinking outside the box to appeal to passengers who are too engrossed in their tech to pay attention.
The last time the Federal Aviation Administration amended the airline safety briefing regulations was in 2013, a move that allowed passengers to use portable electronic devices during all phases of airline flights. Because of that change, many industry observers say, passengers are now even less likely to pay attention during these pivotal safety presentations. Although 83% of human learning occurs visually and 11% occurs through hearing, it’s much more appealing to listen to music or play a round of Candy Crush rather than listen to someone drone into a muffled intercom or watch how to fasten a seatbelt for the millionth time.
Unfortunately, flight attendants and other experts have noticed a lot of passengers don’t know the proper emergency procedures. Photographic evidence from airplane evacuations in 2016 showed that passengers took the time to retrieve their luggage before exiting the aircraft — a definite no-no as explained in crash safety information. Many passengers are under the impression that they’ll be told what to do at the time of a real emergency. But considering that 3.8 billion passengers were carried by commercial airlines in 2016 and emergency situations are unpredictable by definition, that’s leaving a lot up to chance.
Which is why some carriers are getting creative. Air New Zealand was already known for its adventurous marketing campaigns (one of which featured images of crew members and passengers wearing only body paint to show they had “Nothing to Hide”). They later made an accompanying safety video called “The Bare Essentials of Safety,” which went viral in 2009 — before many other videos ever did. Since then, they’ve filmed safety videos with Richard Simmons, Elijah Wood, and Betty White, all of which have racked up millions of views and have convinced people around the world (even those not on-board) to pay attention.
British Airways has tapped in to the power of celebrity safety videos, as well. Last year, their in-flight safety video featured British stars like Gordon Ramsay, Sir Ian McKellen, and Rowan Atkinson and was viewed nearly 25 million times. Sir Michael Caine and other stars make an appearance in this year’s hilarious release that plays on the concept of making a sequel that doesn’t quite live up to the original.
In a statement, British Airways director of brand and customer experience Carolina Martinoli explained, “The first video was a huge success, making customers laugh all around the world, while also helping them to take in those all-important safety messages pre-flight.”
That’s a concept that will likely need to be embraced by carriers in the United States. While Southwest Airlines is known for its humorous take on in-flight announcements, the realm of safety videos is relatively untouched. That may be the next frontier for airlines that want to engage customers, boost their brand, and actually make sure these safety precautions are heard.