Ever since its introduction in the 1980s, the inflight safety video has definitely come a long way. Gone are the no-frills explainers, which all looked relatively the same. These days, inflight safety videos seem to be just as entertaining as the movies offered onboard.
For almost a decade now, airlines have also used the inflight safety video as a tool for brand positioning. From catchy choreography, to using high-profile personalities, airlines are producing elaborate safety videos that will not only help save passenger lives, but will also bring them more customers.
In celebration of aviation safety month this February 2023, AeroTime has compiled its selection of the most unforgettable airline safety video of all time.
Make sure to fasten your seatbelt, as some of these will take you way, way down memory lane.
The firestarter – Virgin Australia
Watching this in 2023, this inflight safety video made in 2007 by Virgin America may seem bland and pale in comparison to the more high definition, high-cost and high technology videos of today.
But this is the inflight video that started it all. When Virgin America began its operations in 2007, it wanted to be known as, “the airline that can make flying fun again”. The airline recognised that by making an animated inflight video with a sense of humor, it could carve out its brand identity as a playful carrier.
“For the .00001% of you that have never operated a seatbelt before, it works like this,” the deadpan narrator says, accompanied by quirky illustrated characters simulating the safety procedures.
This low-cost, high-entertainment video jump-started a new ‘breed’ of inflight videos: those we see now, where crucial safety information is cloaked in wit, humor, and amusement.
The most daring – Air New Zealand’s ‘Bare Essentials of Safety’
No other airline has taken the creation of this new generation of inflight safety videos more seriously than Air New Zealand. The Kiwi flag carrier has churned out nearly 20 safety videos since 2009.
Air New Zealand went with a bold start for its first ‘new gen’ inflight safety video in 2009. No witty lines or humorous antics and, at first glance, it seems like any ordinary safety video.
However, if you look closely, you will see that the flight attendants and pilots in the video are, in fact, naked and have donned expertly applied body paint.
The cheeky video, created for Air NZ’s Boeing 737 domestic routes, ended perfectly with this line: “From the airline whose fares have nothing to hide, Kia Ora, and have a great flight!”
The best throwback theme – Delta Air Line’s 80’s safety video
Delta Air Lines served its passengers not just helpful safety procedures but a dose of 80s nostalgia with this safety video created in 2014.
From the synth-pop background, to the hairstyles and makeup of the flight attendants and passengers, it’s amusing to see that this was what it would have been like to fly in the 1980s.
From aggressive gum chewing accompanied by puffy hair twirling, to clunky handheld gaming devices, Teddy Ruxpin and even Alf, the 80s nostalgia is endless.
There is good reason for Delta to recreate the 1980s. It was on October 9, 1984, when the FAA, in its Advisory Circular 135-12, that it approved the use of video for pre-flight safety demonstration.
The best collaboration with a movie – Air NZ’s ‘Most Epic Safety Video’
For a small country with a population of just over 5 million, New Zealand is known for plenty of amazing sights and experiences. However, it was Peter Jackson’s 2001-2003 Lord of the Rings trilogy that arguably shot New Zealand to worldwide fame.
So it’s no surprise that in 2014 Air NZ created its ‘most epic safety video’ to be in keeping with the blockbuster movie trilogy.
With elves as flight attendants, a flying wizard explaining the brace position, an orc wearing an oxygen mask, and breathtaking scenes of Middle-Earth and Hobbiton, the four-minute safety video is definitely an adventure in itself.
LOTR star Elijah Wood, as well as Peter Jackson, who is himself a Kiwi, are featured in the video.
However, a 2015 study about safety video information retention showed that the greater the entertainment value, the poorer the retention of key safety messages in the video.
We must admit, as epic as this safety video may be, it’s probably a perfect example of the safety message getting lost in the elaborate details.
Best use of talent and celebrities – British Airways ‘Director’s Cut’ safety video
British Airways’ 2017 ‘Director’s Cut’ safety video is perhaps the most star-studded safety video ever made.
The video, made in collaboration with UK charity Comic Relief, features popular British celebrities ‘auditioning’ for a part in the safety video under the watch of an overly-critical and fussy director.
Rowan Atkinson, Ian McKellen, Warwick Davies, Gordon Ramsey and Chiwetel Ejiofor are just some of the few well-known British personalities who star in the safety video.
The video does not use intricate graphics or music, but just plain witty banter and dialogue between the stars.
The safety video was well-received, and even has a sequel and its own IMDB page.
Best dance and lyrics – Alaska Airlines ‘Safety Dance’
While technically not an inflight safety video, Alaska Airlines released this feature in February 2021 to show measures that the airline was taking to control the spread of COVID-19.
Resurrecting the 1982 hit ‘Safety Dance’ by Men Without Hats, the airline used real-life employees to dance/demonstrate safety measures to the catchy tune.
Alaska also created its own lyrics to the song, with lines like, “We can fly where we want to, we can leave your house behind. But if your friends don’t mask (and why don’t they mask…?) Well, they won’t fly this airline.”
Best live choreography – Cebu Pacific on seasonal selected domestic flights
Philippine low-cost carrier Cebu Pacific is known for its low fares and informal approach to branding and marketing.
Most of its domestic flights do not come with seat monitors, so live safety demonstrations are common. From time to time, however, the airline will have seasonal ‘safety dance choreography’ demonstrations, such as the Christmas safety demo dance, which was performed on domestic flights for a week in December in 2011.
The airline even offered a live, all-male cabin crew version of the demo dance.
Performing live is a whole different ball game because there are no retakes and, most of all, the ‘audience’, aka passengers, are merely inches away from you.
Best cinematography – Air France 2022 safety video
Air France’s latest safety video is both straightforward and cinematic, with two flight attendants explaining the safety procedures in French and English as they walk you through France’s iconic tourist spots.
What’s nice about this video is that it still manages to highlight safety equipment and procedures, which are not just glossed over or lost in the production, while still managing to keep passengers entertained.
The use of Paris Fashion Week’s runway to point out emergency exits was also a pretty clever and chic touch.
Blast from the past – Air Canada 1986 Boeing 747-200C safety video
This video isn’t technically included in AeroTime’s notable list of inflight safety videos, but this now-vintage 1986 Air Canada inflight safety video for the B747 is a good marker of just how far safety videos have come.
It’s not just the safety gadgets and electronic devices that have changed, people’s attention spans have also drastically shortened. In today’s digital age, it would be rare for anyone to pay attention to this kind of video from start to finish.
This video emphasizes the reason why there had to be a change or shake-up in the way inflight videos are created.
So that brings us to the end of our list of most unforgettable inflight safety videos. But if you feel we have missed a gem from the aviation safety vaults, then please let us know!