Five Unrealistic Moments from Every Flight Safety Video


Flying is a damn hassle, especially in those painful moments between getting to your seat and finally reaching your cruising altitude. It’s during this chaotic time that most airlines expect you to pay full attention to a video that is intended to provide you with all the life saving advice you need should the craft you’re traveling in begin a death hurtle toward the unforgiving ground below.

People rarely watch the whole thing, but if they did, they would notice something peculiar. The flight safety video is quite possibly the least accurate portrayal of airline travel ever created.

Here are five unrealistic moments from a flight safety video we watched this weekend…

1. The Hassle-Free Seatbelt Fastening Scene


Turbulence has an unfortunate habit of catapulting people who aren’t strapped to their chairs right into the airplane ceiling above them. Unless of course those people are traveling on one of those fancy Southwest Flights that come with detachable roofs, in which case you would just be sucked out into the clear blue sky and killed in the most adrenaline filled manner imaginable. So, it’s no surprise that the seatbelt gets mentioned early and often during the flight safety video.

How The Airline Portrays It: In the world of flight safety production, fastening an airplane seatbelt is about as difficult as breathing. While this is kind of fitting, seeing as how breathing and fastening a seatbelt are both extremely labor intensive activities for the obese, there’s a little more to it than the video implies.

How It Should Look: A few things get left out of the seatbelt fastening demonstration. For example, the part where you sit and fracture your tail bone on the gigantic metal buckle is noticeably absent. They also fail to include the awkward series of accidental thigh and hand touches between you and the stranger seated next to you that happen when you’re both fishing around in the dark crevasses of the seats trying to determine which seatbelt belongs to who. For most passengers, the act of locating both ends of the seatbelt also includes a backbreaking pelvic arch type of motion in which the entire weight of the body is supported fully by the delicate bones of the neck and the sprain-prone muscles of the ankle. This is conveniently omitted from most flight safety videos as well.

2. The Part Where Everyone Happily Complies With the No Electronic Devices Rule


Does anyone really know why you have to turn off all electronic devices when a plane is taking off? Sure, cellphones and pagers make sense. But is there any available information on why a person’s portable DVD player needs to be taken offline? Yes, of course there is. Any one of us could Google it right now and find the answer. But how many of us are that willing to give up a good excuse to feel aggrieved at the hands of a major corporation? Certainly not us.

How The Airline Portrays It: This goes awfully smooth in the flight safety video. The flight attendant asks everyone to turn their devices off and the passengers flash the smile of compliance and do exactly as they’re told. Easy as can be.

How It Should Look: This scene would be more realistic as a montage of people doing one of three things:

  1. Casually covering their electronic devices with a magazine when the flight attendant walks by
  2. Continuing to send text messages in defiant ignorance of flight safety standards
  3. Mouthing the words “how in the fuck is my cassette walkman going to bring this flight down?”

But seriously, turn that shit off. You’re going to kill us all.

3. The Storage Compartment Scene


This one makes perfect sense. A plane crash would be enough chaos without everyone’s goddamn luggage flying to and fro around the cabin. So the flight safety video makes it a point to remind everyone to store their belongings in the overhead bins.

How The Airline Portrays It: A passenger looks down and notices that, whoa, they totally forgot there was a 400 pound bag on their lap! Better hop up right up and slip that into a safe place. And that’s just what they do. It’s a stress free experience for all.

How It Should Look: Is the storage bin completely empty? If so, your bag will be way too large to fit comfortably. In fact, you should just smash anything of value to dust before you get on the plane, because it’s going to happen when you try to jam your overstuffed backpack in there anyway.

What’s that? Your carry-on bag is really small? Great, that means the one available overhead compartment near you will have an acoustic guitar, three Culligan water jugs and a partially inflated air mattress in it. Better put it under the seat in front of you. Because there’s no way you’ll forget about it when it slides twenty rows forward, coming to rest underneath the crust-addled feet of an angry octogenarian.

In light of what we’ve come to know about head injuries in sports, it might be a good idea if they would make at least a passing reference to concussion warning signs. Because you’re totally going to have one after you smash your head trying to stand up and get to that overhead storage bin.

4. The Seamless Interaction Between Two People Trying to Exit and Enter the Restroom at the Same Time


It seems ridiculous, but the basics of walking down an aisle that other people may also be walking in are covered in most flight safety videos. To demonstrate the risky nature of an endeavor such as this, the example of one person exiting the restroom while another person is trying to enter is used.

How The Airline Portrays It: It’s really simple, you guys. With all of that free space to move around in, two people arriving at the exact same spot at the exact same time is no problem at all! Just step aside and let the cooperation begin!

How It Should Look: It goes without saying that at least one of the involved parties will be absolutely terrified by this encounter. It’s usually a delicate soccer mom who had no way of knowing that another person might be on the other side of a door in an airplane filled to capacity. A blood curdling scream is absolutely the appropriate reaction in that situation.

After the fright has subsided, both parties enter into a complicated bit of choreography that involves one person proceeding down the aisle at the most space consuming angle possible while the other does a Matrix-like backwards hover over the lap of whatever unfortunate soul happens to be seated right near the restroom door.

5. The Calm That Accompanies Putting On the Life Vest

life vest

The life vests stowed around the plane. They’re a grim reminder that you may be in the air right now, but shit could get really real really quick if you go down. If you watch any portion of the safety video, make sure it’s the part where they tell you how to inflate the life vest. Not only because it’s something you may very well want to know later, but also because it’s the absolute peak of flight safety ridiculousness.

How The Airline Portrays It: What’s that the captain just said? Water landing? Sounds refreshing! It’s going to be a scorcher where we’re going. A nice dip in an icy lake would be a welcome respite from the oppressive heat! But first, let’s calmly put these life vests on and then sit quietly while anticipating our imminent demise.

How It Should Look: Wait, what? Water landing? Did the captain just say “water landing?” Holy mother of God we’re all about to die! Where did you get that life vest? ANSWER ME!

Shit, my life vest is missing. Maybe the flight attendant can locate one before I meet a watery grave. Oh, I see, the flight attendant has passed out from the abject horror of the situation. Good call, I’ll probably do that too. Someone put that life vest on me if one shows up. I’m just going to sit here and sob uncontrollably.

Adam Tod Brown is the managing editor of The Smoking Jacket. He would like to be your friend on Facebook and on Twitter @realadambrown. He also kindly requests that you please leave your children at home when you fly. Thanks.