1

I guess most of the participants here know the flight security briefing message more or less by heart (How can you close and open your safety belt? How many exits are there? Where? Which word are they clearly marked with? Can you find the nearest exit by looking on the ground? Where's the life vest? How to put it on? Should you inflate it before exiting? How can you add or release air from it? What is that little light for? What happens upon loss of cabin pressure? How to put on an oxygen mask? How should you breath with an oxygen mask on? With helpless people next to you, should you first help them or first take your own mask? Where can you read more about on-board safety?).

As far as I can tell, the text has hardly changed over decades (ignoring any differences imposed by technical differences between plane models). One exception: I guess a few years ago, they started adding the recommendation to keep the belt closed during flight. But what concerns me a bit is a tiny change in formulation that - as far as I can tell - has been introduced only a few months ago (but I have repeatedly observed it since): The phrase "In the unlikely event of loss of cabin pressure ..." got shortened by removing the word "unlikely".

First of all: Is this observation correct? Or did that possibly only happen for the few airlines I tend to travel with?

Second: What could be the reason behind removing such a comforting word?

  • 3
    Information about aircraft incidents is widely published. So unless there was a corresponding increase in instances of pressure loss during flight I wouldn't worry about it. – JonathanReez Jan 27 '16 at 17:51
  • @JonathanReez Alright, I assume the (some while ago) added hint to keep the belt closed might have been a reaction to people getting injured by sudden unforeseen turbulences. Such incidents might not even make it to the news, whereas I assume one or two might suffice to influence the instruction text. - Then again, regarding cabin pressure loss, there certainly would have been press reports, I suppose. – Hagen von Eitzen Jan 27 '16 at 21:57
  • There's a slight variation between airlines in general. For example, most US carriers say to inflate the life vest after exiting the plane and never to inflate it inside. However, United says to do it just prior to exiting. (Honestly, the latter makes more sense to me, since you want the thing inflated before you take the risk of falling into frigid water). – ChicagoRedSox Jan 28 '16 at 5:16
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While the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) requires airlines to provide a preflight safety briefing for passengers, the content requirements vary from regulator to regulator, and the script may vary considerably from airline to airline (and even from flight attendant to flight attendant). As such, you would well expect its wording to change over time, whether from internal or external influences. There are numerous pre-recorded and passenger-recorded preflight briefings available on YouTube which you can compare at your leisure.

In the United States, the content appears to be dictated by FAA Advisory Circular AC 121-24C - Passenger Safety Information Briefing and Briefing Cards. Under Appendix I: Part 121 Operations with Flight Attendants, the preflight message about oxygen equipment doesn't say anything about saying whether a loss of cabin pressure is likely or not:

(13) Oxygen Equipment. In accordance with § 121.571(a)(1)(v)(C), if the flight involves operations above 12,000 MSL, crewmembers must brief passengers on the normal and emergency use of oxygen. These instructions should include locating, donning, and adjusting the equipment; any action which might be necessary to start the flow of oxygen; and the prohibition against smoking during oxygen use. In addition, passengers should be advised to don their own oxygen masks before assisting children with their masks. The announcement should include the information that oxygen mask reservoir bags may not inflate, although sufficient oxygen is flowing into the bag. On smoking flights, passengers should be told to extinguish all cigarettes when the oxygen masks drop.

The EU regulation, AMC1 CAT.OP.MPA.170 (Passenger briefing), similarly mentions simply that

passengers should receive a demonstration of the following: …
(ii) the location and use of oxygen equipment, if required. Passengers should also be briefed to extinguish all smoking materials when oxygen is being used;

So whether the airline explicitly does or doesn't say a loss of cabin is "unexpected" seems to be up to the airline in those jurisdictions. It's possible that their lawyers or insurers wanted it removed in an attempt to reduce injury (and limit liability), or it may have been an attempt to reduce the length of the briefing, or it may be a flaw in training, or it may be something else; we can speculate endlessly, but it would simply be speculation. Write the airline and see if they respond.

  • Of course I did not want to refer to the great entertainers among flight attendents, but rather the typical off-the-shelf text. I made my observations in several EU based airlines, but come to think of it they were all close relatives ... So a single company policy might be all it took – Hagen von Eitzen Jan 27 '16 at 21:59

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