Frequent flyer markets in everything

by on October 1, 2011 at 2:33 am in Uncategorized | Permalink

Smoke poured into the airplane cabin and activity came to a screeching halt. As the captain yelled “Evacuate! Evacuate!” passengers did what comes naturally: They froze.

The “emergency,” staged with theatrical smoke in a full-motion airline cabin simulator, was part of an unusual British Airways safety course. Sixteen travelers from some of the airline’s top corporate customers and its advertising agency practiced jumping down evacuation slides, opening heavy airplane doors and scampering out smoke-filled crashed cabins. They also learned simple tips that could save lives.

It seems odd that an airline would want to train people to deal with catastrophe, but British Airways believes the course engenders customer loyalty and helps calm nervous fliers. The airline plans to open up the course, which costs about $210, to individual travelers next year, possibly letting passengers redeem frequent-flier miles to attend. About 11,000 people have gone through the class so far.

Bob Frank may not approve of this one:

“We teach people to react faster than anyone else so they are in the aisle first and down the slide first,” said Andy Clubb, a British Airways flight-attendant trainer who conceived of and runs the passenger course.

On the brighter side:

… it’s not simply survival of the fittest. Other passengers seeing someone react positively will quickly follow, and the prepared passengers become leaders, making the entire evacuation faster.

The article itself passes along some tips.  For the pointer I thank Kurt Busboom.

1 Marc Gawley October 1, 2011 at 6:00 am

A study of 105 accidents and personal accounts from almost 2,000 survivors of how they managed to escape from crash landings showed that…many passengers delayed their escape to help friends or relatives. People travelling with colleagues, however, appeared to focus on their own survival and head straight for the exit.


2 Nemo October 1, 2011 at 10:24 am

I am a little skeptical of the usefulness of this course. (To the participants; that is. I understand the usefulness to the people charging for it.)

I mean, in the entire history of air travel, how many lives have been lost because someone decided not to get off the plane fast enough?

Put another way, when was the last time you read about an air travel accident where the fatality rate was anything other than zero or 100%?

3 Michael Corcoran October 1, 2011 at 6:23 pm

See Air Canada fkight 797 which crashed in Cincinnati in 1983. Slow evacuaton increased the death toll, which was exactly 50% of the people on board.

4 Keith October 1, 2011 at 11:16 am

“it’s not simply survival of the fittest. Other passengers seeing someone react positively will quickly follow, and the prepared passengers become leaders, making the entire evacuation faster.”

Sounds like competition as a discovery process. Score one for Austrian economics!

5 Dan Weber October 1, 2011 at 2:09 pm

Fire safety engineers have repeatedly tested this and found similar results. Just one person saying “let’s go” can be enough to get everyone to leave. (But people in charge who pretend that nothing is wrong can have significant dampening effects.)

6 Real Andrew October 1, 2011 at 11:28 am

Wikipedia shows quite a few accidents with some but not all fatalities:

and quotes the NTSB that evacuations occur approximately every 11 days.

7 ron October 1, 2011 at 2:10 pm

Sounds more like a reality themed carnival ride to me. Albiet an expensive one.

8 mrmandias October 1, 2011 at 7:29 pm

And one that your employer might plausibly pay for as a business expense.

9 anonymous October 1, 2011 at 8:26 pm

This is not without value. And yet…

We’re bombarded daily with public service announcements and awareness campaigns, with so many self-appointed Johnny Appleseeds out there trying to sprout their “helpful tips” memes within our already full-to-bursting brains. Granted, there’s a certain appeal to “disaster porn” and fantasizing about what we would do if thrust into some utterly improbable emergency. But it’s like fantasizing about winning the lottery: sure, those things happen… somewhere… sometimes (rarely)… to someone. Just not us.

I can already feel way too many memes ricocheting around in my skull like so many freshly-burst popcorn kernels or fat maladroit buzzing moths, and they’re crowding out far more important knowledge. So, no, I don’t want NASA to tell me what to do if I a charred piece of some derelict satellite crashes through my roof. And if an Al Qaeda commando team hits my sleepy suburb, well then I guess I’m a goner. Beyond a one-week supply of bottled water and a smoke detector, I’m just not going to bother with the rest.

In the real world, purging your brain of all this billion-to-one trivia means that you won’t hit your daily “decision fatigue” limit prematurely and you’ll be able to make better-quality judgments about more mundane and drawn-out crisis situations. Like, say, the proper way to react when ridiculously low interest rates blow up an asset bubble in real estate. If only people had flocked to courses for that instead.

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