It’s Time to Retire the Airline Safety Briefing

“Ladies and gentleman, please pay attention to the following worthless rubbish.”

Time To Read: 8 mins | December 26, 2016

“Ladies and gentlemen, the Captain has turned on the fasten seat belt sign. If you haven’t already done so, please stow your carry-on luggage underneath the seat in front of you or in an overhead bin. Please take your seat and fasten your seat belt.”

I understand this bit of the speech. Your flight crew is prompting that after your surge-priced Uber ride, coughing up $25 per checked bag, walking barefoot on the nasty floor through the bomb scanner thingy, paying $12 for a pre-flight beer, then obnoxiously waiting on the 100+ people who ignored their boarding group, it’s finally time to strap yourself into a seat half wide-enough for the average American’s ass and be carted like a sardine off to somewhere, anywhere else.

Don’t get me wrong, I adore flying, primarily because you can be whoever the hell you want to be in airports. For the half hour between security and boarding, you’re anonymous and surrounded by strangers. You’ll never see these people again, so, within the confines of good taste, act how you want to act and be whoever you want to be.

It’s also infinitely easier to start a conversation when waiting for a flight, especially at a bar. It’s not like anyone’s date is in the bathroom, or they’ve got to hurry off to a work something ruther. Everyone simply wants to drink doubles and talk about sports before they read a magazine for the next three hours. And then poof — come boarding time, they’re gone forever. Good chat or uncomfortable convo doesn’t matter. Zero repercussions.

And then the actual airplane. Louis C.K. said it best – after bashing everyone’s common complaints about boarding delays and waiting on the tarmac, he says “Well what happened next? Did you fly through the air, incredibly, like a bird? Did you partake in the miracle of human flight, you non-contributing zero?

“YOU’RE FLYING! IT’S AMAZING! Everyone on every plane should just be going, ‘OH MY GOD! WOW!’ You’re sitting in a chair in the sky!”

I tend to agree with this sentiment. Regardless of the inconveniences, which are many, you take a quick nap and wake up thousands of miles away.


Commercial flight is one the marvels of the modern technological era, like Grubhub and Shake Weights.

But god dammit to hell, I am through with the safety briefing. There’s nothing on land or sea so pointless, or anywhere near as annoying.

Let me hit you with some context: in 2015, only one in every 3,100,000 commercial flights crashed. That works out to 0.0000003%, which, as professional statisticians will tell you, is low. Now, of those accidents, only four included fatalities. That further skews the numbers to one death per 23,900,000 commercial flights. For comparison, the odds of your being canonized as a saint, no matter how often you go to church or pray or kick puppies, are 1 in 20,000,000. You’ll be Saint [your name here] before you die on an airplane.

But here’s the really fun bit: for Americans, none of that matters. There hasn’t been a fatal commercial plane accident on US soil since 2009. All of those absurdly low, insanely safe figures relate to flights leaving from international locations. No one has died on a commercial jet that took off in America in eight years.

And yet, every time you’re taxiing to the runway, you’re treated to five minutes of worthless drivel about safety procedures should the worst happen. But the worst literally never happens. We’re so paranoid about safety in this country that we’ve managed to foolproof jet-powered steel tubes moving 600mph at 30,000ft above sea level. Why, then, do I need instructions on how to inflate a lifejacket?

— I’m getting ahead of myself. That lifejacket bit is not the most worthless part of the speech; it doesn’t even make the ‘Worst Of’ list. This, however, has to be the most pointless, most repeated sentence in history:

“We remind you that this is a non-smoking flight.”

Well no shit. Smoking hasn’t been allowed on flights since the late ‘90s; that’s over twenty years of clean air in the skies. NFL referees don’t have to tell teams before every game that the 2-pt. conversion is allowed (a rule adopted in 1994). It’s been going on for so long that everyone playing & watching at home simply knows, because we’re not morons. Similarly, I don’t need to be told not to chain smoke Marlboros in the window seat.

And we’re not even to the safety chat yet, which, I should point out, is preluded by this little bit of brilliance:

“Now we request your full attention as the flight attendants demonstrate the safety features of this aircraft.”

How does this make a stewardess feel? A statement designed to have everyone look and listen to you, yet is unanimously ignored by anyone with a brain. So now, this highly trained air travel professional will perform the following unnecessary demonstrations for no one:

“When the seat belt sign illuminates, you must fasten your seat belt. Insert the metal fittings one into the other, and tighten by pulling on the loose end of the strap.”

— we all know how ridiculous this is. Smarter men than I have mocked it for decades. I have a theory that, if a large enough percentage of the people on the airplane can’t figure out how their seatbelts work, that flight is the one God decides to wreck. He and Darwin are in cahoots.

“In the event of a decompression, an oxygen mask will automatically appear in front of you. To start the flow of oxygen, pull the mask towards you. Place it firmly over your nose and mouth, secure the elastic band behind your head”

I love this bit, because what else would go through your mind when a little yellow soup bowl dropped from the ceiling? “Probably not important, and besides, I’m about to set a new record on Fruit Ninja.”

“If you are travelling with a child or someone who requires assistance, secure your mask on first, and then assist the other person.”

I actually support this. It’s the equivalent of a corporation telling everyone to ignore their paternal instincts and, instead, follow the millennia-old doctrine of “SAVE YOURSELF!”

“In the event of an emergency, please assume the bracing position. Lean forward with your hands on top of your head and your elbows against your thighs. Ensure your feet are flat on the floor.”

There were four fatal airline crashes in 2015. I promise you, in no instance was anyone’s life saved on those planes because they properly followed the bracing instructions. When several tons of steel and and gasoline and flesh hurtles five hundred miles per hour into a cliff, “ensuring your feet are flat on the floor” isn’t the difference between life and death.

“Each door is equipped with an inflatable slide which may also be detached and used as a life raft.”

And here we find the biggest travesty of all. Installed on this plane are a bunch of insta-slides that explode with air the minute you activate them, and then you can use them as oversized ocean floaties — and no one ever gets to play with them?

It’s one thing to waste my time with stupid worthless safety info, but it’s just cruel to tell me you’ve included toys in all the emergency exits that I’ll never get to use.

Unless, per my earlier theory, I convince the entire plane to act confused about their seat belts.


photo: active volcano just outside antigua, guatemala. if you look closely, the little puff of gray just above the peak isn’t a cloud, it’s a minor eruption.

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Malcolm Freberg
Malcolm Freberg
American writer living permanently on the road. Believes rye whiskey is superior to bourbon, Belle is the best Disney princess, and that selfie sticks should be snapped in half on sight. Hosted a travel documentary for AOL & played Survivor a few times.

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