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.

9 comments
  1. Air New Zealand did exactly the right thing. Presumably the passengers in the exit row were asked if they would participate and able in an emergency by opening the over wing exit windows if required. All the person had to do was say no and move to a different seat.

    Your choice of words for the headline are very misleading too. “Booted off” suggests another bad airline. Perhaps something like “Airline does the right thing and stands up for safety”.

    To stop passengers from taking carry on off in an emergency would be easily solved by automatically locking the overhead bins when seat belt sign on.

    1. Sorry, just words. I agree it was the right thing to do, and I think the article carries the flavour of my sentiment. I think automatic locking bins are a great idea… unfortunately more expense and more downtime for aircraft so probably won’t happen, at least not in a retrofit capacity.

  2. Air France Air Safety video is definitely the best.However i wonder if all the passengers during the Boeing ‘s accident in the river were wearing their masks and their inflated jackets? As for the Sukhoi aircraft ‘s crash we did not see any passenger wearing those safety items but we did see some of them carrying their hand luggage…

    If this Air New Zealand passenger did not want to pay attention to th eAir safety video because let’s say she has seen them tons of times she should still have been more discreet in doing so.Stucking her fingers into her ears was just rude and irresponsible of her .Behaving this way is also a bad example for younger passengers for instance.

  3. I commend Air New Zealand for doing this. In the US you never see anyone look at the safety card or presentation. Everyone is on their phones with their headphones on. The flight attendants don’t even care about window shades being up anymore during takeoff and landing.

  4. I was a flight attendant for two airlines and ive demonstrated safety countless times and when a manual or live demo takes place by the fa’s, people pay attention more than when a video is played no matter how cute those videos are. They arent very realistic at all and people don’t watch them, or they don’t get the message of safety from those videos. They watch when im in the aisle demonstrating.

    1. I agree. It’s interesting to see how airlines are trying to grab attention, but for me I certainly pay more attention when there’s an FA making eye contact etc. The only downside to this is often I can’t see them very well (being a bit short!) so maybe streaming the live demo to the screens for vertically challenged people would help?

  5. On Virgin America, the music was so obnoxious that it would make me nauseous. I block the screen with an air-sickness bag stuck into the bezel, wear ANC headphones, and turn my hearing aids down. I make no apologies for this. My solution is simple: Test the passengers at kiosks in the boarding area or online, and don’t let them board until they pass. Problem solved.

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