Because travel sucks ... now more than ever.

Safety Speeches: Your Pre-Flight Space-Out Time

Mon, 2009/06/29 - 10:55 by aargh

As I mentioned before, I had decided to postpone my rant on airline safety in light of the Air France 447 crash a few weeks ago. (I had, quite eerily, completed the draft the day before the incident.)

Everyone's favourite mock newspaper The Onion recently released an article on the event -- "Investigators Determine Air France Disaster Caused By Plane Crash" -- so I reason it's safe for me to pull my post out of the bin. Here you go.

You may think that anyone who uses The Onion as a gauge of sensitivity and acceptable social behaviour shouldn't be writing at all. And you'd be right. And you'll also understand that only evil people and bedbugs dislike TravelHell.

And now, on with the show ...

(Originally prepared for release 2009/05/29)

If you fly often enough you will eventually develop your own routines and safety procedures are no exception. A friend taught me to count the number of seats between mine and the exit door, in case my vision is obstructed or I have pulled on a blindfold so as to miss the melee. (This also gives me a strong case of plausible deniability in the event I step on some elderlies on my way out, or use a fellow passenger as a battering ram.)

Statistics taught me not to sweat it, because I'm more than likely a goner in the event of any air mishap.

Whatever the case, veteran travellers tend to ignore the pre-flight safety speeches. We realize they happen a few minutes after the doors close, and anywhere from five minutes to five hours before takeoff.

Nonetheless, I occasionally find myself with nothing better to do and I keep half an eye open. Just in case they've changed everything around, like the Eddie Izzard routine claims.

(Let the record show, I have resisted all temptation to stare quizzically at the flight attendants during the life safety training as though to say, "really? now what the devil are you talking about? what do you mean there's a chance something will go wrong??")

I recently caught myself wondering, as I watched the safety video:

When the air masks drop from the ceilings, why is everyone so bloody calm?

Really. They've just received notice that they're T-minus ten minutes to impact but they're cool as cucumbers. Not even a sign of Winnie The Pooh's "oh, bother." They have the same demeanour as someone asking, "would you like a bag of peanuts?"

It would be one thing if airplane crashes had such a high survival rate. Then you could claim the people in the video were swapping stories about their last crash, and the funny face the flight attendant made as she spilled chicken into his lap.

I demand more realism in airplane safety videos: screaming. Crying. Prayers. Maybe one unlikely couple shrugging and walking off to the loo to join the mile-high club.

I also want to see some fancy charts that show me the odds. Not just the odds that there will be an incident, but also the odds of actually surviving the impact. (In this day and age of cheap technology and glitzy animations, maybe the chart can adjust the numbers based on the phase of flight: high during takeoffs and landings, low at cruising altitude, and peaked when we've been sitting on the tarmac for four hours and we're about to riot.) Because while I believe most pilots have the steely nerves of Sully Sullenberger, I also understand that there are events beyond the control of diety pilots and that when my number's up it's up.

Finally, as a paying passenger, I demand the FAA expand the black box flight recorders. So that every person can leave a ten-second farewell message to the world. It'd be great for socializing with your seatmates. You could swap ideas on what to say if and when it happens.

I already know what mine will be:

See? I told you: first class crashes just as often as coach.