13 September 2006

Honesty is a violation of FAA regulations

In this week's issue, The Economist offered an entertaining take on those pointless pre-flight airline announcements (subscription required):
At Veritas Airways, your safety is our first priority. Actually, that is not quite true: if it were, our seats would be rear-facing, like those in military aircraft, since they are safer in the event of an emergency landing. But then hardly anybody would buy our tickets and we would go bust.

. . . .

Your life-jacket can be found under your seat, but please do not remove it now. In fact, do not bother to look for it at all. In the event of a landing on water, an unprecedented miracle will have occurred, because in the history of aviation the number of wide-bodied aircraft that have made successful landings on water is zero. This aircraft is equipped with inflatable slides that detach to form life rafts, not that it makes any difference. Please remove high-heeled shoes before using the slides. We might as well add that space helmets and anti-gravity belts should also be removed, since even to mention the use of the slides as rafts is to enter the realm of science fiction.

Please switch off all mobile phones, since they can interfere with the aircraft's navigation systems. At least, that's what you've always been told. The real reason to switch them off is because they interfere with mobile networks on the ground, but somehow that doesn't sound quite so good. On most flights a few mobile phones are left on by mistake, so if they were really dangerous we would not allow them on board at all, if you think about it. We will have to come clean about this next year, when we introduce in-flight calling across the Veritas fleet. At that point the prospect of taking a cut of the sky-high calling charges will miraculously cause our safety concerns about mobile phones to evaporate.

The FAA regulation requiring an inane pre-flight passenger briefing is available online. I'm going to print it out so that I can better follow along on my next flight. I'll take notes as the attendant recites her scripted statements and shake my head and scowl if she misses anything. I don't see anything in the regulation reserving a period of time for passenger rebuttal, but perhaps I'll ask some questions of her and initiate an illuminating roundtable discussion of the various rules. Afterward, we can all take a field trip to the front of the plane to view the required airline certificate which clearly indicates the name of the country wherein the final assembly of the airplane was completed.

Aye, question the regulations and you may be forcibly disembarked; sit placidly during the announcements and you'll probably reach your destination, probably not more than two or three hours late. And lying in your beds at the Holiday Inn Express many days from now, would you be willin' to trade all the days, from this day to that, for one chance, just one chance, to go back and tell the flight attendants and those TSA bastards that they may take our boarding passes, but they'll never take our freedom!

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