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 airlines have begun employing 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, 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 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 continues to shed its image as a stodgy legacy airline with sleeker branding. On planes equipped with seat-back displays, you can watch its crew members perform safety demonstrations, set in various locales around the world — all with a bit of hilarity.
Air New Zealand
Air New Zealand may be best known for “The Most Epic Safety Video Ever Made,” in which the airline tapped into its sponsorship of The Hobbit films (Peter Jackson filmed Thee Hobbit and Lord of the Ring trilogies in New Zealand) to create a video that’s just as, well, epic. While Tolkien mania has died down, the safety videos are still fun to watch. Its latest features Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Katie Holmes highlighting the beauty of New Zealand, with a touch of fantasy. The airline’s next video will focus on Antarctica and climate change, but we recommend checking out previous hits on Air New Zealand’s YouTube channel.
Alas, with Alaska Airlines’s acquisition of Virgin America now complete, 2018 will see the brand fade away. We described Virgin America as having the cheekiest marketing among domestic airlines, so we’re sad to see it go (Alaska’s service is great, but leans toward conservative). So before we wipe the airline from this list, let’s remember this song and dance performance that, like a Top 40 radio hit, will leave you humming the tune in your head afterward. Alaska, take note.
Starflyer is like the Jetblue of Japan — a low-cost carrier with premium amenities. For its video, it blends live-action demonstrations, narrated by a Gundam-esque robot composed of airplane parts. It is kind of weird and we have no idea what’s going on (thankfully there are subtitles), but it’s still entertaining.
In 2014, Virgin Atlantic released 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 destroyed during a test flight.)
Turkish Airlines’s safety video features Zach King, a Vine and YouTube personality known for his “magic” videos, which are cleverly edited clips that create the illusions. For the Turkish Airlines video, he employs his special effects for each safety instruction, and they are quite creative.
Delta Air Lines
Among the legacy carriers, Delta has been cultivating a hipper image for years. Its incredibly entertaining “Internetest” video was chock-full of Internet memes, from Nyan Cat to Double Rainbow dude. Delta seems to have pulled back from the humor, opting for a more professional video that highlights its employees. But it’s the funny ones that we’ll remember most.
Portuguese airliner TAP went retro with its safety video, taking passengers back to 1945, when the airline was founded. With comedy, the video starts off inside a mock Douglas DC-3, complete with historic furnishings. As the video progresses, we travel through the airline’s timeline, heading into the Jet Age of the 1950s and modern era. The airline even created a making-of video of the video.
You won’t see this video ever on any 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, but the airline spends nearly two minutes of the five-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 your 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.