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Keeping passengers interested while not diluting the core safety message is a tricky balancing act. It looks like Qantas may have missed the mark on this one.

Qantas debuted its new air safety video on Wednesday, and it hasn’t gone down well. The Australian flag carrier proudly posted a 10-minute version on social media that instantly sparked criticism. Aside from its length, comments have centered around distracting visuals and vague safety instructions. 

There has been renewed scrutiny of the role of pre-flight safety briefings after the Japan Airlines accident on January 2. The Tokyo-based carrier has been praised for its straight-talking, no-nonsense video, which has been credited with aiding a smooth evacuation. 

The new Qantas film was shot across 14 locations over 40 days, and it shows. The concept is ‘magic places’, with crew and passengers sharing some of their favorite destinations. Alongside quintessential Aussie scenes from Sydney and Tasmania, there are nine other countries featured.

These include Mexico, Morocco and Finland – places that are not on the Qantas route network and would require at least one (and likely two) onward connections with other airlines. 

The video features a helicopter soaring over New Zealand, a vintage sports car in California and a ferry in Sydney, but there aren’t any in-cabin visuals of the plane itself.

Among the comments on social media:

  • “I love Oz don’t get me wrong, but just tell me what I need to know to get off this airplane…” 
  • “I bet the people who made that video really enjoyed it. But no, way way too long for a safety briefing…”
  • “This new one feels tedious and doesn’t seem to have much of a focus on safety. Probably will need a rethink, and I doubt it will last very long…”
  • “Be faster if you just showed the Lord Of The Rings trilogy (extended edition)…”

The Qantas team was quick to respond to the negative comments. They sought to reassure passengers that the 10-minute film is “an extended version intended for online viewing to showcase our people, frequent flyers and incredible destinations”. They added that the video that aired to travelers pre-flight “will be condensed”.

The controversial briefing will be rolled out onboard the carrier’s global fleet from this week. There are a total of 75 different versions, including 12 different languages.

A Question of Clarity

Catriona Larritt, Qantas’ Chief Customer Officer offered additional insight into the strategy behind the new approach: “First and foremost, the video is about familiarizing our customers with safety procedures and we try to make it as engaging as possible, in particular for regular flyers who might otherwise tune out.

“We are proud to feature our own well-traveled team members and customers, to not only deliver the safety message but also promote travel and tourism by inspiring people to explore destinations they may not have experienced throughout Australia and beyond,” Larritt added. 

In recent years there has been an industry trend towards more abstract safety videos. Proponents argue that these are more captivating and likely to get the message through to passengers. However, the risk comes when the core safety instructions get lost among dazzling visuals and gimmicky storylines. 

Qantas isn’t the only big name airline to refresh its pre-flight briefings recently. Earlier this month Korean Air released a new video starring virtual humans and last year, British Airways rolled out its latest film, featuring celebrities including Ncuti Gatwa and Emma Raducanu.

You can view the trimmed down, six-minute version of the Qantas video here:

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Tags: air safety, airlines, british airways, japan airlines, qantas

Photo credit: Qantas Qantas / Qantas

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