One of the most important aspects of flying is something that often gets ignored – the safety demonstration. Whether it’s flight attendants demonstrating it live in the aisle, or a video playing in front of you, this is usually the moment earbuds go in and flyers tune out.
But lately, several airlines have employed a secret weapon: safety demonstration videos that are not only informative, but also highly entertaining – using musical performances, high-art animation, and humor to subliminally impart the info to you.
As we’ve seen from incidents like the 2013 Asiana crash in San Francisco and the 2009 water landing of a U.S. Airways plane, surviving an accident is not out of the question, thanks to knowledgeable flight crews and pre-flight safety tips. But if you still need some convincing on why you should pay attention, here are a few reasons.
Wearing seatbelts at all times
Most flyers know that turbulence is common, and sometimes it can get pretty violent, which is why the pilot always tell you to buckle up when you’re in your seat. But things happen on the ground too: In 2011, a giant Air France Airbus A380 clipped a much smaller Delta regional jet and spun it nearly 90 degrees. Luckily nobody was hurt, but it’s one example of why you shouldn’t unbuckle until you’ve reached the gate.
Putting your oxygen mask on first
If a cabin suddenly loses pressure, oxygen masks will drop from above. It’s important to get it on your face because, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, loss of oxygen at high altitudes can quickly deteriorate body functions, and causing things like pain and hallucination. This is why you should help yourself before you assist others in putting on the mask: You’ll end up too loopy to help at all if you go too long with low oxygen.
Why you shouldn’t inflate a life vest
After three men attempted to hijack an Ethiopian Airlines plane in 1996, the Boeing 767 made a crash landing on water. Yet, one of the reason why many passengers died was not because of the impact, but due to them having inflated their life vests while inside the plane. As water rose inside the fuselage, the passengers were trapped by the vests. Today, flyers are advised not to inflate the vests until outside.
Get the picture? Now that you understand their importance, we direct your attention to what we think are the best safety videos – so entertaining are they, most have gone viral on YouTube.
Our favorite safety demonstration videos
United is slowly shedding its image as a stodgy legacy airline with sleeker branding. It recently replaced its typically boring safety videos with a more lively version that’s peppered with humor. Watch for the fist-fight atop the gondola.
Air New Zealand
When the video is titled, “The Most Epic Safety Video Ever Made,” you can expect something grand. Air New Zealand has tapped into its sponsorship of The Hobbit films (Peter Jackson filmed the Hobbit and Lord of the Ring trilogies in New Zealand) to create a video that’s just as, well, epic. Look for cameos by Elijah Wood and Jackson.
We described Virgin America as having the cheekiest marketing among domestic airlines, and for its safety video, it has created a song and dance that, like a Top 40 radio hit, will leave you humming the tune in your head afterward. Like a Glee montage, the video goes through different musical styles, including the obligatory rap interlude.
Sass runs in the Virgin family. The latest safety video from Virgin America’s British relative, Virgin Atlantic, is a beautifully animated film that follows the dreams of a passenger who has fallen asleep during the safety demo. Called “Trip,” each varied dream – homages to Hollywood movie themes – corresponds with an instruction. (Unfortunately, a space scene shows Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo, which was recently destroyed during a test flight.)
Starflyer is like the Jetblue of Japan – a low-cost carrier with premium amenities. For its video, it blends live-action demonstrations with sequences of manga-style ninjas. It is kind of weird and we have no idea why ninjas are even there (luckily, there are English subtitles), but it’s still entertaining.
Delta Air Lines
Among the legacy carriers, Delta has been cultivating a hipper image for years. Unlike United’s new video, all scenes are shot inside a plane. While every new video follows the same formula, Delta mixes things up by throwing in the unexpected. Its “Internetest” video is chock-full of Internet memes, from Nyan Cat to Double Rainbow dude.
As fun as the aforementioned safety videos are, most of them aren’t realistic. To make its video relevant to flyers, TAP Portugal employed real passengers to perform the safety demonstrations, but still adding a dash of humor.
You won’t see this video ever on your next flight. This one from defunct carrier Pan Am shows the safety demonstrations from 1988, and it’s amazing that not much has changed. But we love the shots of bygone plane interiors. Check out the section at 1:43, where you’re told to extinguish your cigarette (yes millennials, you could smoke on a plane back in the day).
We aren’t sure if Bangkok Airways is still using this safety demo video it created back in 2012 (perhaps our Thai readers can confirm), but the airline spends nearly two minutes of the 5-minute video on a cheesy song-and-dance number; there’s enough lip-sync to make Milli Vanilli proud. Like Virgin America’s video, the song gets stuck in the head – but not in a good way.
What if you hired electro-funk band Chromeo to do your safety video? While it’d sure be entertaining, we’re not sure how safe it’d actually be (it’s not). Thankfully, Mallard Air isn’t real in this Funny or Die production.
(This article was originally published on November 21, 2014. It was updated on May 20, 2015 to include a new video from Delta.)