Air New Zealand Passengers Booted Off Flight After Not Watching Safety Video

A woman and her husband were kicked off an Air New Zealand flight yesterday for refusing to watch the safety video. The Airbus A320 was due to travel between Wellington and Auckland when the female passenger allegedly stuck her fingers in her ears at the request of a crew member to watch the safety video.

Air New Zealand A320
A couple were kicked off an Air New Zealand A320 yesterday. Photo: Aero Icarus via Flickr

It’s never something we look forward to, particularly as a regular flier, but the safety briefing is as relevant on our 1,000th flight as it was on our first. Sometimes we’re on an unfamiliar aircraft, other times there may be nuances in the procedures we need to be aware of. A lot of the time it’s the same old stuff that we’ve seen a hundred times before, but it’s still important to listen.

For one couple in New Zealand, this point has been literally hammered home as they were both removed from their flight for refusing to pay attention to the safety briefing.

What happened?

Flight NZ424 was loaded up and ready to leave from Wellington, heading to Auckland. The Airbus A320 pushed back and began taxiing to the runway and, as is normal procedure, the safety briefing began. Passengers put down their magazines and watched the video, all except one woman.

Passengers say that the woman in question was leafing through a magazine and playing on her phone while the safety briefing was taking place. Normally this type of inattention might have gone unnoticed, but she was, in fact, sitting in an exit row, and should have been paying attention.

Air New Zealand A320
The Air New Zealand aircraft had to return to the gate. Photo: Ben via Flickr

According to the Evening Standard, a witness account says the woman put her fingers in her ears when asked to watch the video. The witness said:

“The video started playing and the flight attendant held up the card, but the woman started looking down at her book. A flight attendant said very patiently ‘Can you please watch what’s happening because this is the exit row’. The flight attendant was super kind and kept asking her, but the woman put her fingers in her ears.”  

It is illegal to disobey crew instructions, so when the flight attendant was blanked by the woman, it was the airline’s right and privilege to remove her from the aircraft. For the woman and her husband, it was just desserts. For the rest of the passengers, it was a return to the gate and an unwelcome delay.

Are safety briefings really important?

As regular fliers, it’s easy to become complacent about the potential hazards that exist when you strap yourself into a metal tube and hurtle through the air thousands of feet off the ground. But exist they do, and regardless of how many flights you’ve taken, refreshing your safety knowledge never goes amiss.

Nine times out of ten (or, in fact, 2,519,999 times out of 2,520,000) flying is perfectly safe. We arrive at our destinations completely intact, having had a very pleasurable and uneventful journey. However, if you’re on that one flight out of two and a half million where something does go wrong, you’d better be sure you know the drill.

It pains me to say it but perhaps, just perhaps, if certain passengers on a Russian aircraft had understood the consequences of stopping to pick up luggage, the death toll from the accident on Monday might not have been so high.

Keeping flyers’ attention

Getting people to take notice of the safety briefing is an ongoing challenge for airlines. While Air New Zealand might be making an example of this couple to encourage more attention, other carriers have taken a more creative approach to developing an attention grabbing safety presentation.

United Airlines added a touch of carnival glam to their 2017 safety video, in a bid to get people to put down their iPads.

Although no longer with us, Virgin America went for an all singing, all dancing earworm that will have you humming the tune all day long.

Their British counterparts, Virgin Atlantic, in 2014 went for a gorgeously animated film following the dreams of a passenger who fell asleep during the safety video. A controversial premise, but it absolutely gets the message across in a very entertaining way.

And Air New Zealand themselves have the accolade of producing ‘the most epic safety video ever made’, also in 2014. Paying homage to The Hobbit Trilogy (naturally, as the ‘official airline of Middle-Earth), the video has had more than 20m views on YouTube. And those aren’t even passengers!

But we couldn’t do a feature on bizarre air safety videos without mentioning my personal favorite. Brought to us by short-lived low cost arm of Air France, Joon, its perhaps the most mind-bending of all safety videos, and really has to be seen to be believed.

All joking aside, air safety is no laughing matter and all safety briefings demand attention. Whether you’ve flown five times or five hundred, knowing the precise procedure for that flight crew and aircraft could save your life.