Aviation accidents are extremely rare and often times preventable. In fact, the odds of being on a flight where one fatally occurs, even on an airline with the worst accident ratings, are 1 in 1.5-million. Nevertheless, the tragic death of a passenger on a Southwest Airline flight this month has highlighted a worldwide issue regarding passenger aviation safety that appears to be getting worse.

Travelers Are Ignoring Preflight Safety Demonstrations!

In the days after the fatal Southwest Airline accident, photos went viral of travelers on board the flight preparing for the emergency landing of the aircraft. Most passengers were shown incorrectly wearing their oxygen masks; a step which, if done incorrectly, can prove to be a fatal mistake.  Flight attendants and pilots admit they aren’t surprised and have noticed a huge decrease in passengers paying attention during their safety briefings, particularly in the last few years.

Preflight demonstrations of emergency safety procedures are federally required to be performed before every flight, every time. So why are passengers choosing to miss these vital instructions?

Looser Restrictions on Technology

Not so long ago, flight attendants were requiring passengers to completely turn off their electronics during takeoff and landing. After the approval of airplane mode and other offline electronic settings by the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in 2013, flight attendants have struggled to pull passenger’s focus away from their screens.

Passenger Denial

Most travelers are aware that chances of experiencing a life-threatening plane crash are quite rare, but some take this comfort a little too far. Passengers who believe ‘it will never happen’ neglect to pay full attention to what they should do in the case of an emergency. Even the proper placement of oxygen masks, for instance, could mean the difference between life and death in a case of low cabin pressure.

Frequent Flyers

For people who are all too familiar with riding on planes, listening to yet another preflight safety demonstration might seem pointless. But surprisingly, the most frequent of flyers may not pass a general safety test on what to do in the case of an aviation emergency. Additionally, not every plane is the same when it comes to the location of emergency equipment, and procedures can change over time depending on the airline.

Parental Distractions and Anxiety

Parents who fly with children are likely more worried about safety than most. But juggling babies, activities, and snacks to prevent screaming during takeoff can often take their attention away from safety briefings. Passengers with flight anxiety may also be preoccupied before take off, often times trying to think of anything BUT the chance that an emergency could occur.  

Less Than Entertaining

In defense of passengers on any airline, despite preflight safety demonstrations proving to be vital in saving lives, most flight attendants lack enthusiasm when performing these instructions making it difficult for passengers to want to pay attention. If the airline employees are not expressing the importance of the information they are delivering, they cannot expect the passengers to prioritize their instructions.  

Revamping Safety Demonstrations

Preflight safety briefings are federally required for a reason- to save the lives of everyone on board. But if the majority of passengers are ignoring the current demonstrations, what can airlines do to change this?

  • Lively Safety Videos: Some airlines have resorted to using safety videos in place of flight attendant demonstrations in hopes to increase passenger participation. Other airlines, such as Virgin America, are taking these videos a step further in adding musical entertainment to grab the attention of their guests.
  • Spelling Out The Consequences: Did the passengers on the Southwest flight know the consequences of wearing their oxygen masks incorrectly? Most likely they didn’t. Some experts believe providing the ‘why’ behind each safety instruction might encourage passengers to pay a little more attention to learning the steps correctly if the dangerous consequences were clearly described.  
  • Replay Options: For the busy parents, or the anxious individuals, who are too preoccupied to pay attention during takeoff, offering a way to repeat the video from your seat would provide equal access to all emergency information and instructions. Providing access to the safety videos online for passengers to view before their flight could also help these individuals prepare.
  • Re-ban Electronics: If travelers are nose deep in business emails or the latest Facebook drama, even an informative and exciting safety video will not encourage a response. Banning electronics during the takeoff process may be the only way to catch the majority of passenger’s attention for safety briefings.

Prevent Aviation Fatalities

Aviation fatalities and injuries do not only occur when a plane is crash landing to the ground. Simple instructions such as keeping your shoes on, fastening your seatbelt, and learning how to properly place an oxygen mask can do wonders in preventing serious injuries and unnecessary deaths on planes experiencing rough air or low cabin pressure. Regardless of what changes the airlines and federal regulators choose to make with their current safety briefings, passengers are ultimately responsible for their own safety education on an airplane, and this begins with paying attention to emergency instructions provided.