I admit to getting a little peevish when those onboard around me talky talk talk talk through the safety briefing. And here’s why:
Emergency landing. I wish to get off the plane safely. Every aircraft is different. I fly waaaaaaay more than most people and when my fellow passengers keep talking and talking while the briefing is being done – I can’t hear it. And I want to. Every time.
People who don’t pay attention create bottlenecks to the exit doors, panicking and blocking the aisles, and yelling for the flight attendant to tell them what to do. Which, if they had listened to the safety briefing for that particular airplane, they would already know.
The Captain, who has been flying many many years to get that title and has more experience than anyone else on the plane, will not take off if every item on the pre-flight checklist has not been checked and verified. Every. Time. He does this to keep us safe, and, frankly, to keep himself safe. He wants to go home tonight just as much as we do – and he’s not going to fly the plane without a clear and verified review of how the machine is working.
Passengers have a responsibility to actually listen to the safety briefing. Preparation is everything. It precludes panic. In the event of an unexpected landing, the crew is using every tool they have to get us safely to the ground. One of those tools is US knowing where the exits are, how to find them if there’s low visibility because of smoke and we are crawling down the aisle, how to inflate a life vest, how to tighten the oxygen mask, and yes – how to unbuckle our seat belts.
Exit Row. This is the most important seat in the plane should anything unexpected happen. As a passenger, I’d like to beg you to read the Exit Row portion of the safety card because it is different for every airplane and you are my lifeline to getting out of the plane. Please, save my life by knowing what you are expected to do. Don’t assume you know. Please.
Even in a boring business meeting, on a topic we are familiar with, we at least look at the presenter and don’t speak while they are speaking. We do this at school awards, we role model for our children even though we don’t really care about the awards other people’s children are getting. At home, at work, in church, at the bank – we listen to people telling us what we may already know because it is polite. You don’t talk in the theatre when actors are speaking even when you don’t like the play – it just isn’t appropriate.
We all know how awful it is to stand in front of a group of people giving information that we know is important for them and have them all keep talking, or shuffling about, or sleeping. It is demoralizing and incredibly impolite. What if the flight attendant did that to you while you were asking for assistance? You’d be outraged, probably. It would be so rude.
Be safe, be polite, be prepared. Take the safety card out and look at it. Look at where the exits are. Laugh at the funny little stunted man-boy getting an oxygen mask from his mommy. Notice that before you open the exit row window to let people out in an emergency, you should first check through the window to see if there is danger like fire or thick smoke or huge jagged pieces of glass.
Because those things we are prepared for almost never happen, and when they do…we are ready.