United Airlines rolls out a new safety video aimed at distracted passengers

Follow the rolling ball.

In a maneuver to draw the attention of distracted passengers, United Airlines has taken a creative approach to ensure everyone remains focused during its in-flight safety video.

The airline released a 4½-minute Rube Goldberg-inspired clip that features a blue ball on a rolling track that soars through a plane.

The ball takes a long journey through the cabin to pinpoint crew members explaining various safety elements like fastening seatbelts and locating emergency exits, all accompanied by a jaunty instrumental soundtrack.

Admittedly, “people start to tune out” during pre-flight safety demonstrations, Meg Mitchell, the creative director at United, told NPR.

“And so we wanted something that felt like you could watch over and over and over again and still want to pay attention to … The safest safety video is one that people will want to watch even on your 45th viewing.”

The visually pleasing stunt follows nearly two decades of airlines taking a lighthearted approach to the important announcements that are a part of the regular boarding process.

United Airlines used a ball on a rolling track in a new safety video for distracted passengers. youtube/United
One expert thinks distracting videos don’t help keep attention. youtube/United

One of the most memorable examples of that was when Elijah Wood and Sir Peter Jackson took part in a “Lord of the Rings” themed video for Air New Zealand nearly 10 years ago.

However, some — including Australian aviation safety professor Brett Molesworth — call those kinds of gimmicks “too cognitively taxing.”

The University of New South Wales academic believes the end result is nobody processing important information — like where they can find a flotation device or how to work the emergency oxygen.

“When you start pairing or introducing a storyline or some type of marketing, advertising, you’re only going to adversely affect the retention of information,” he said.

However, United’s vice president of safety, Sasha Johnson, doubled down on their latest production.

United thinks its new video will bolster attention about safety features. youtube/United

“I’m very proud of the video we put forward,” she said.

“I think it does strike the right balance between getting people to pay attention. But also delivering that information fresh every single time so they can be prepared.”