Flights of Fancy for Safety

I’m sure you’ve suffered (sat… I mean, sat) through at least a few terrible in-flight safety demonstrations and videos in your time. Out of all the major US airlines, I can’t think of one that’s truly nailed the educational aspect of talking about flight safety – remember, the goal here is to make sure people can actually apply what they’re being told should a disaster occur.

Air New Zealand has taken the most boring part of every flight and completely re-imagined it. Each year, the country receives thousands of visitors looking to see the landscape of Lord of the Rings for their own eyes. The airline used this crucial part of New Zealand’s economy to turn a boring safety talk into a truly engaging, actually fun experience. Take a look here.

While the video was released in 2012, it somehow just got over to the states when The Verge covered it recently in October 2014:

“Much like the movie that inspired it, it’s an incredibly elaborate affair. While 2012’s air safety film was fairly modest, mostly featuring Middle-earth garb and a cameo from Jackson inside the airplane, this year’s film was shot all over New Zealand, including the set of Hobbiton, and features a dozens of actors in pretty elaborate costumes, including a host of decked-out orcs and elves.”

However, I’m here to talk about the real value of the short film: it’s educational design genius. Air New Zealand took what is perhaps the most loathed and boring part about flying and not only shortened it, but also made it wildly entertaining, relevant, and memorable. The key here is that they did the unexpected: when most people board a plane, they know what’s coming in terms of the safety demo. They tune out, text while they can, and even start dozing off. They know what to expect, yadda yadda, and have absolutely no interest in paying attention. The filmmakers took advantage of this by providing a completely “out of left field” viewing experience. Since the film opens like a feature film and not like your typical safety video, people actually pay attention. Then it follows through with a real storyline, characters, and drama thrown in here and there. The whole thing is laughable but remarkably charming – the effect intended to motivate viewers to actually remember what they saw in case of an emergency.

What’s the takeaway here? Anyone who teaches anything can use this model! The Air New Zealand video provides a great storyline and technique that facilitators, instructors, and designers can use to create more engaging learning experiences. Perhaps you won’t theme your next workshop on Lord of the Rings, but I guarantee you that setting a more interesting backdrop will keep your learners awake, alert, and able to apply what you teach them!

Share this Post:

Posted by Kristen Gallagher

Kristen Gallagher
Kristen Gallagher is an organizational strategies and learning designer. Specializing in onboarding systems, manager development, and knowledge management, Gallagher delivers programs that are designed to evolve and scale with rapid changes. She is the founder and CEO of Edify and has architected and delivered onboarding programs for companies bringing on just one person a quarter to 50+ people a quarter.

She brings over eight years of learning design, business development, and program operations and strategy to Edify. She guides growing tech companies to create amazing people systems, learning programs, and cultures that scale. Kristen speaks on human resources, human centered design, learning & development in technical environments, and integrated people operations across the country. Informed by her interests in technical product design, art history, contemporary Southeast Asian art, and museums, Kristen brings an iconoclastic approach to designing and implementing learning programs in tech environments.

She's spoken and taught at Learning Dev Camp, ATD Cascadia, ACTW, Refresh Portland, Product Tank, PHRMA, and dozens of other conferences. Effective, efficient programs, events, and strategies are what motivate her, and in every project, she engages teams to understand trade-off’s, make data-driven decisions, and design evolvable solutions.