United Releases its New Safety Video: Hit or Miss?

United has a new, cute safety video they’re rolling out across the fleet.

I have a few thoughts. Matthew likes it. My feelings are more mixed.

  • At four and a half minutes it’s just too long. I want to be in the air already by the time the video is 80% done.

  • United CEO Jeff Smisek isn’t in the video. That makes the video better, and means they’ll be able to use it into the future.

  • Towards the end of the video, telling passengers to carry on just one bag and one personal item seems absurd given that they’re all already seated with baggage stowed when this is playing.

  • The kangaroo is great. The United captain scolding the French restaurant patron is bizarre, a sentiment perfectly captured by the Frenchman’s expression as he tries to walk into the bathroom only to find the door locked and a lavatory door ‘occupied’ sign appearing.

These are the greatest safety demonstrations ever. United’s new video is clever, maybe too clever, but doesn’t really approach any of the better examples of the genre.

If you’re going to do more than give safety instructions, do it well. Otherwise you’ve spent a lot of money, and your flyers start wondering why they had to give up garlic bread and ketchup to pay for it?

Not to mention how Clevelanders will feel about spending on this video, and not an Ohio hub. Perhaps United could have avoided soaking MileagePlus members and kept prices low if they’d have cut corners on the production values of the safety video?

Shooting on location is expensive, and now much more so if they’re redeeming awards to these exotic locales. And think of all the checked bag fees for the equipment..

What do you think of United’s new safety video?

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Smisek isn’t in, hasn’t been in, any prior safety video.
    His CEO message is a separate video that runs ahead of the safety video. Just like prior Continental CEOs had their little spiel before the safety video.

    I’m not entirely sure everything was shot on location. It’s amazing what you can do with CGI and Green Screen technology these days.

  2. I think there seems to be some failure to understand that there’s been a sea change. When passengers were armed only with a walkman and a book to counter the boredom of a 6 hour flight, announcements, meals and safety videos were basically welcomed entertainment. These days passengers are in the middle of watching a movie and are annoyed it was interrupted. They don’t want company BS or 15 minutes of rambling useless information from the FA about beverage services repeated in Mandarin, Cantonese, and Japanese. A good safety video is one that is not one second longer than what the FAA will find acceptable.

  3. They tried to capture Air New Zealand’s cheeky charm and missed the mark. The actors/flight crew are strangely stiff in their delivery. And it doesn’t really fit with United’s brand. A miss.

  4. C’mon. That was not bad at all. And yes, a lot, not all, of the location was obviously green screened. (Of course they could probably fly their camera crew out at cost.)

    And give the talent a break. They were apparently real cabin crew staff. You try acting to a camera, with multiple takes!

    The pouch lines — kangaroos — were excellent.

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