Pre-Flight Safety Demonstration Gets Performed as a Modern Dance: A Creative Video from a Taiwanese Airline

Tai­wanese air­line EVA Air’s pre-flight safe­ty video is a gen­uine odd­i­ty in a field lit­tered with cre­ative inter­pre­ta­tions.

Ten years ago, air­lines were straight­for­ward about com­ply­ing with the Inter­na­tion­al Civ­il Avi­a­tion Orga­ni­za­tion, the Fed­er­al Avi­a­tion Admin­is­tra­tion, and oth­er gov­ern­ing bod­ies’ require­ments.  These instruc­tions were seri­ous busi­ness. Chil­dren and oth­er first time trav­el­ers paid strict atten­tion to infor­ma­tion about tray tables, exits, and inflat­able life vests that jad­ed fre­quent fly­ers ignored, con­fi­dent that most take offs and land­ings tend to go accord­ing to plan, and the over­whelm­ing num­ber of planes tend stay in the air for the dura­tion of one’s flight.

What about the ones that don’t though? There are times when a too-cool-for-school busi­ness trav­el­er seat­ed next to an emer­gency exit could spell dis­as­ter for every­one onboard.

Vir­gin America’s 2007 ani­mat­ed safe­ty video, below, was the first to recap­ture pas­sen­gers’ atten­tion, with a blasé nar­ra­tive style that poked fun at the stan­dard tropes:

For the .0001% of you who have nev­er oper­at­ed a seat­belt before, it works like this…

The cocky tone was dialed down for more crit­i­cal infor­ma­tion, like how to assist the child in the seat next to you when the yel­low oxy­gen masks drop from the over­head com­part­ment. (Imag­ine the may­hem if indie ani­ma­tor Bill Plymp­ton had been in the pilot’s seat for this one…)

The irrev­er­ent approach was a hit. The FAA took note, encour­ag­ing cre­ativ­i­ty in a 2010 Advi­so­ry Cir­cu­lar:

Every air­line pas­sen­ger should be moti­vat­ed to focus on the safe­ty infor­ma­tion in the pas­sen­ger brief­ing; how­ev­er, moti­vat­ing peo­ple, even when their own per­son­al safe­ty is involved, is not easy. One way to increase pas­sen­ger moti­va­tion is to make the safe­ty infor­ma­tion brief­in­gs and cards as inter­est­ing and attrac­tive as pos­si­ble.

For a while EVA Air, an inno­va­tor whose fleet includes sev­er­al Hel­lo Kit­ty Jets, played it safe by stick­ing to crowd pleas­ing schtick. Its 2012 CGI safe­ty demo video, below, must’ve played par­tic­u­lar­ly well with the Hel­lo Kit­ty demo­graph­ic.

…looks a bit 2012, no?

A few months ago, EVA took things in a direc­tion few indus­try pro­fes­sion­als could’ve pre­dict­ed: mod­ern dance, per­formed with utmost sin­cer­i­ty.

Chore­o­g­ra­ph­er Bulareyaung Pagarla­va, a mem­ber of Taiwan’s indige­nous Pai­wan com­mu­ni­ty, and a small crew of dancers spent three months trans­lat­ing the famil­iar direc­tives into a vocab­u­lary of sym­bol­ic ges­tures. See the results at the top of the post.

You’ll find none of the stock char­ac­ters who pop­u­late oth­er air­lines’ videos here—no sneaky smok­ers, no con­cerned moms, no sleepy busi­ness­peo­ple. There’s bare­ly a sug­ges­tion of a cab­in.

Unfet­tered by seats or over­head bins, the bright­ly clad, bare­foot dancers leap and roll as they inter­act with 3D pro­jec­tions, behav­ior that would cer­tain­ly sum­mon a flight atten­dant if per­formed on an actu­al plane.

Does it work?

The answer may depend on whether or not the plane on which you’re trav­el­ing takes a sud­den nose dive.

In “No Jok­ing,” an essay about air­port secu­ri­ty, Uni­ver­si­ty of Ottawa pro­fes­sor Mark B. Salter writes that it is “dif­fi­cult to moti­vate pas­sen­gers to con­tem­plate their own mor­tal­i­ty.” The fash­ion for jok­i­ness in safe­ty videos “nat­u­ral­izes areas of anx­i­ety,” a men­tal trick of which Freud was well aware.

What then are we to make of the EVA Air dancer at the 4:35 minute mark, who appears to be falling back­ward through the night sky?

Would you show a jet’s worth of trav­el­ers the mod­ern dance equiv­a­lent of Air­plane 1975, Fear­less, or Snakes on a Plane before they taxi down the run­way?

Mer­ci­ful­ly, the nar­ra­tor steps in to remind pas­sen­gers that smok­ing is pro­hib­it­ed, before the dig­i­tal­ly pro­ject­ed dark waters can swal­low the writhing soloist up.

There’s also some ques­tion as to whether the video ade­quate­ly address­es the ques­tion of tray table oper­a­tion.

Read­ers, what do you think? Does this new video make you feel secure about tak­ing flight?

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Sta­tis­tics Explained Through Mod­ern Dance: A New Way of Teach­ing a Tough Sub­ject

Artist Nina Katchadouri­an Cre­ates Flem­ish Style Self-Por­traits in Air­plane Lava­to­ry

NASA Puts 400+ His­toric Exper­i­men­tal Flight Videos on YouTube

Col­or­ful Maps from 1914 and 2016 Show How Planes & Trains Have Made the World Small­er and Trav­el Times Quick­er

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

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