What do you think of when you hear the words flight attendant safety demo? Perhaps viral YouTube videos come to mind, such as the Air New Zealand crew members covered in body paint as they talk airplane safety. Or maybe you recall the Southwest Airlines flight attendant rapping, the Cebu Pacific Airlines flight attendants dancing to Lady Gaga, or Deltalina wagging her finger as she says smoking isn’t allowed. These are certainly fun ways to put a new spin on old information.
Disappointingly, unless we sing, dance or joke our way through the safety demo many people respond with an eye-roll when we flight attendants stand in front of the cabin to point out the aircraft’s safety features. It’s important to remember we do this for a reason – not just because the FAA says we have to.
Cabin crew members have many duties and responsibilities but the most important of all is passenger safety, even if it is accompanied by some entertainment…
1. Your safety information card is found in your seat pocket, it works nicely as a fan during hot summer days. Every aircraft make and model is different. Doors and exits vary as do how they open. Does the window exit automatically open when you pull the handle or do you have to throw the exit out on to the wing? Your safety information card will tell you. Trust me, if you want to know how to get out of an aircraft quickly – or at all – in an emergency you want to know how the exits work.
2. To fasten your seat belt slide the flat end into the buckle, to release lift up. If you don’t know how to operate a seat belt, you probably shouldn’t be out in public unsupervised. Passengers have asked me a zillion times why we bother with the seat belt demo when everyone is – or should be – already buckled in by the time we’re taxing and performing our safety briefing.
You’d be surprised how many people don’t know how to fasten an airplane seat belt. I’ve helped dozens of people of all ages fasten their seat belts, but fastening isn’t the biggest concern, it’s unfastening. You see, airplane belts don’t have buttons like car seat belts, so people frequently struggle with unlatching their belts. This is especially true for the occasional or first-time flier. If you’re sitting in the dark and panicking when seconds matter, knowing how to get out of your seat belt quickly can save your life. Practice opening your belt with your eyes closed the next time you fly. Tip: Airplane seat belts open easier if the belt is fastened snugly around your hips.
3. There may be 50 ways to leave your lover, but there are only six ways out of this aircraft. Did you know it’s human nature to exit through the door you entered. Therefore, look behind you and see where the closest exit is. There is a good chance you may have a few choices. What’s even better is knowing how many rows are behind you to the exit. In a dark or smoke-filled cabin you will not be able to rely on your sight.
4. If the oxygen masks drop while in-flight. Stop screaming, grab the mask, and pull it over your face. If you’re traveling with a child or someone acting like one secure your mask first then assist the other person. This one is pretty obvious, but here’s a question: What happens if you’re standing in the aisle waiting to use the restroom or walking around stretching your legs and the oxygen masks drop?
Every seat row has an extra oxygen mask. If there is a row of three seats, there will be four oxygen masks. If the flight isn’t full take the closest unoccupied seat and use that row’s oxygen mask. If the flight is full (likely these days), grab the closest available mask and breathe. While holding on to the seats, let go of the mask and move to the next row and grab another mask and take a breath. Do this until you return to your seat. If you’re in the lavatory most aircraft have two masks (for a parent and child) but some aircraft do not have any. If you hear an announcement to secure oxygen masks and no masks have fallen, exit the lavatory and get to the closest mask and proceed as explained above.
5. Your seat cushions have been designed to work as a flotation device. In the event of an emergency water landing, please take them with you when you exit the aircraft, paddle to shore and feel free to keep yours as a souvenir. In addition to floatable seat cushions, flights traveling 50 miles off shore will provide emergency life vests. As the Hudson ditching proved, it’s likely some passengers will forget about their seat cushions and their life vests. What’s worse though is inflating a life vest while still inside an aircraft. If your vest is inflated and the aircraft becomes submerged you won’t be able to dive under the water to exit through a door or window. Sadly, this scenario has happened. Remember: inflate your vest only after exiting the aircraft.
As you can see, no matter how the safety information is offered, entertaining or not, it’s said and shown for a reason. The next time you fly, look over your safety information card, know where your exits are, practice unfastening your seat belt and pay attention to the flight attendant safety demo. It may save your life!