In airliners, safety demonstrations are performed when the aircraft is leaving the gate. I understand it cannot be done latter as an aircraft incident including an evacuation may occur at take off roll. But I think it could be done earlier (e.g. in waiting area before boarding). This way, if any passenger has any question (e.g. this one), this passenger has plenty of time to ask flight attendants before takeoff. This time may also be used to explain why safety demonstration include all those items (life vest inflated outside the airplane is not the only item that could raise questions). Moreover it could be a good use of waiting time before boarding.

EDIT: As highlighted by one answer, some airliners use video to do this demonstration. In this case, the generic items (i.e. not aircraft specific) of the video could be played on screen in waiting area in addition to the actual briefing.

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    $\begingroup$ If push back is delayed and everyone is on the plane they will go ahead and do the safety briefing. $\endgroup$
    – ryan1618
    Commented Sep 30, 2015 at 12:31
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    $\begingroup$ Some might describe standing up in a long corridor of a moving vehicle a safety concern. So it's rather ironic that this is how a safety demonstration is conducted. $\endgroup$
    – Dave
    Commented Sep 30, 2015 at 17:15
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    $\begingroup$ Pointing out the exits wouldn't work so well in the terminal. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 30, 2015 at 19:57
  • $\begingroup$ One thing missed in the answers so far. I count the seat backs between me and the exits in front and behind. That way, no matter what, I can count them as I move towards whichever exit I might need to use. $\endgroup$
    – Simon
    Commented Sep 30, 2015 at 20:37
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    $\begingroup$ @Dave "Some might describe standing up in a long corridor of a moving vehicle a safety concern." Tell that to anybody who commutes by train or even by bus. Heck, tell that to the passengers who just used the airport monorail system to get to their gate. Standing on moving vehicles is a societally accepted risk. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 1, 2015 at 8:07

5 Answers 5


Many passengers don't reach the gate until seconds before the gate closes for a variety of reasons. They won't get the pre-boarding briefing.

Taxiing is the only time before takeoff where the crew knows for sure that all passengers that will be on the plane are there.

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    $\begingroup$ also, the moment the aircraft begin taxing, you're sure every passenger is seated and not busy (e.g. stowing carry-on baggage on the overhead bin or under the seat, etc.) $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 30, 2015 at 10:18
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    $\begingroup$ The passengers aren't the only thing that might change: in some (albeit rare) circumstances, the plane might also change at the last minute too. Imagine a briefing that said "Seats 12 and under will go forward in the event of an emergency, with the rest going to the back" only to find in this plane it's from 15 instead. $\endgroup$
    – corsiKa
    Commented Sep 30, 2015 at 23:21

The waiting area is a poor choice of place to give a safety briefing. Passengers are talking amongst themselves, fiddling about with hand luggage, or listening to music on earphones, and may not respond well to being interrupted for the briefing. There are often disturbances (e.g. passengers on other flights passing the gate). As ratchet freak pointed out, not all the passengers will arrive early, and if everything is running to schedule, there shouldn't be a wait between the announced boarding time and the actual boarding.

Typically, before boarding (most of) the cabin crew is on the aircraft getting ready for the boarding. They don't have spare time to go to the gate to perform the demonstration, so it would mean having extra staff who just do briefings, with an extra risk of briefing for the wrong aircraft. In addition, it's only possible to point out the overhead panels and emergency exits when you're in the aircraft.

On the aircraft immediately before take-off, every passenger is in their seat, with no headphones in (in case of an emergency), and the cabin crew are spread out with nothing else to do. It can be an anxious time for passengers and crew alike. It's not only a suitable free period: the briefing makes an important activity to keep passengers and cabin crew alike busy during this time. Finally, even if passengers don't listen to the briefing, it gives them a minute to picture the exit routes in relation to their actual seat location, and mentally plan for an emergency.

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    $\begingroup$ You can also include that safety instructions take into account the aircraft type, so the cabin crew or other ground personnel cannot give a standardized instruction, but must give one relevant to the aircraft. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 30, 2015 at 11:31
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    $\begingroup$ You also can't point at things in the aircraft if you aren't in it. And for airlines without reserved seats people may not know where in the aircraft they will be sitting until they sit down. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 30, 2015 at 15:53

A very simple answer to this question is that the FAA (and international agencies) require it to be so to ensure that all passengers are available to hear/see the briefing.

The other more robotic/pilot-like answer to this is because it is on the taxi checklist. Haha :)


This simplest answer is a matter of economy. If the airline gave the briefing in the terminal or wherever before loading the passengers, then the airline would have to allocate resources (personnel, demo gear, logistical planning, and policies) to preform this task. It could be done but the cost (monetary and intrinsic) would be high and the ROI would be little to none.

Instead, they choose to do it while taxiing because it is the most economical time to do so as the flight attendants have little to do (as opposed to during flight where passengers are unpredictable in their needs).

Also, interesting to note is how some flights (Delta at least) have switched to a fully automated system for the safety briefings. Note that this procedure actually saves money by freeing up resources previously committed (as well as potential ad revenue).

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    $\begingroup$ Most of the airlines I've traveled on recently that have in-flight entertainment systems use a video for the briefing. Delta still does it manually on most aircraft without IFE systems, though some have audio recordings. But, yes, that is a good way to ensure that nothing is inadvertently skipped and also relieves the FAs to do other stuff. It's also pretty common for airlines to make these amusing in order to try to make it more likely that passengers will actually pay attention. Air New Zealand is particularly well-known for this. $\endgroup$
    – reirab
    Commented Sep 30, 2015 at 21:21
  • $\begingroup$ If fully automated, the safety video could also be played on screens in waiting area $\endgroup$
    – Manu H
    Commented Oct 1, 2015 at 7:12
  • $\begingroup$ @ManuH Where an even larger proportion of the passengers will completely ignore it or be unable to properly see a screen. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 1, 2015 at 7:40
  • $\begingroup$ In what sense is there "potential ad revenue" from giving the safety briefing on the in-flight entertainment system? $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 1, 2015 at 7:41
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    $\begingroup$ @ManuH, if played in the waiting area, there would have to be a policy in place to ensure that all passengers watch it. Once again, what is the financial benefit to this? $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 1, 2015 at 13:02

While the above are certainly good reasons how this came to be, today the answer is very simple and is the same for almost all commercial aviation questions starting with "why": because there is an FAA regulation and changing an FAA regulation needs monumental effort and thus needs an extremely compelling reason first.


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