Throughout the years, family and friends have always asked about any important air safety tips they should follow from my perspective as a pilot and Captain. Here are some suggestions that I have given to enhance their, and now your safety while on your airline flight.
First of all, many already know that flying on an airline flight is by far the safest mode of transportation there is. Having said that, there is the very minimal chance that something unexpected could go wrong as witnessed by the USAir flight that was forced to ditch in the Hudson River in January of 2009. Always be prepared should be your mantra.
Clothing. I recommend wearing pants instead of shorts or dresses for two reasons. First, for fire. If your flight is involved in a crash on either landing or takeoff, there could be a chance of fire. Any clothing you have on will be another shield from being burned. Secondly, for cold weather. I am always amazed that during winter, whether it is your destination or origination point, people wear shorts. Sure, if you were leaving say Hawaii and going home to New York later that day (during the winter), it would be very comfortable and cool to wear shorts leaving Hawaii. However, if you had a landing accident in New York, evacuated the plane safely, and then had to wait for several minutes, half hour or longer, there could be real danger of hypothermia, frostbite or worse. Two incidents come to mind. The Continental crash on takeoff in Denver in December of 2008 and the USAir ditch in the Hudson in January of 2009. Both times, fortunately everyone survived the initial impacts. Even more fortunate, was that the rescue personnel were on scene very quickly. Imagine if those folks had to stay in the life rafts, water, or in snow for very long. Once again, it is just another layer of clothing that can aid in these situations on the very small chance that something could happen.
Footwear. While flip-flops are very comfortable, they won't help much in evacuating the aircraft. Not only will you be slipping all over, but there won't be much support for your foot and ankle during a high-stress time. Additionally, it gives more protection if there was a fire or if you evacuated into cold weather.
Life vests. While a life vest demonstration is required on all "over -water" flights (usually more than 50 miles from land), they are not required at other times. This is a bit naive when the vast majority of major airports are located near rivers or lakes or close by an ocean. As evidenced once again by the USAir flight ditching in the Hudson River, this is a more probable scenario on your flight than something happening at altitude. Obviously though, the biggest worry is that there is certainly minimum time to react and put the vest on properly (and don't inflate it until you exit!) when you are in the takeoff or landing phase of your flight.
A last safety tip, take a few minutes to review which way you would exit in case of an evacuation. For those sitting in an exit row, over the wing, these window doors or hatches vary widely on airline aircraft. Some, such as regional jets, you pull a handle which will release the hatch and you pull it inside. Others, including widebody aircraft, the hatch or door will pop out or slide up. Flight attendants should always be at the doors, the wing exits will be opened by passengers most of the time.