*That* photo of Southwest Passengers and Oxygen Masks

What’s wrong with the above image?


By now you must have seen the image above doing rounds on the media silently chuckling to yourself about those poor saps who didn’t put on the masks correctly.

But, before you congratulate yourself again on your obvious superiority, imagine the scene, if you will, as though you were one of those passengers on this ill-fated flight:

The flight is cruising along at 35,000 feet when you see the engine blow out and hurl deadly shrapnel through the window seriously injuring several passengers.  The entire cabin experiences rapid decompression and you watch a woman get nearly sucked out of the window.  At this elevation, you are aware that humans have only 15-30 seconds of useful consciousness.  You can barely hear the crew barking out instructions over the panicked shouts.  Somebody just yelled out “Is this a terrorist attack?!!”  Is it? – you wonder.  Your stomach lurches as the pilot takes the flight into a rapid descent.

The oxygen masks all around you suddenly drop en masse.

Of course, as a frequent flyer who travels over a million miles a week on twenty different airlines, you knew better than to follow through that boring pre-flight safety briefing for a billionth time.  And while you are vaguely aware that the mask probably goes on your nose and your mouth, the lack of oxygen is getting to you and, honestly, the oxygen mask looks a bit too small right now.   You see a couple of people next to you reach out and wear the masks covering only their mouths.  You are too wound up by the current situation to think too long about this and you say to yourself: “Hey, maybe those two know what they’re doing?”

You proceed to reach out and put the mask on your mouth.  You see a bunch of people around you follow suit.


Now, obviously, this is merely a hypothetical scenario and I recognise that it doesn’t apply to everyone: but can you honestly say that you have never glossed over/dozed off/or just plain ignored the pre-flight safety briefing?  How can you find the emergency exit doors of the flight (without searching for them) if you didn’t follow along on the safety briefing?

And regardless of how you personally would react or handle a stressful situation like this, it honestly doesn’t hurt to use this tragedy as an opportunity to refresh your knowledge and recognise the importance of the safety briefing.

Here is a hip American Airlines safety video to help jog your memory:

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