Lesson in Visual Management from GOL

Last week I had a chance to fly GOL, the Brazilian low cost airlines billing itself as the “intelligent airlines” and an airline having one of the most modern fleets. They are in fact a smart airlines and it was a pleasant flight. Once the Brazilian landscape fell away below, I was left looking for reading material in the seat pocket in front of me and unexpectedly found a lesson in Visual Management or sorts.
Here’s a cutaway pocket where the in-flight magazine would normally be. What percentage of the time does the stewardess ask you to review the safety information card on take off? One hundred per cent. What percentage of the time do I review it? Maybe 3%. GOL makes theirs hard to ignore, so I pulled it out.
There was a lot of information on this two-sided card, no more than 10 inches by 10 inches.
Here it is clearly explained what to do and what not to do in an emergency.
But why no high heels? This part was not so clear to me.
And this one instructs you in case of a water landing to leave your high heels, your shoes, fasten your seat belts, no smoking (is this not a non-smoking flight anyway?) and further more not to jump into the roaring flame below (far right). Certainly sounds advice, but roaring flames?
Here are useful instructions for exiting the airplane. This exit looks more orderly and efficient than many exits I’ve experienced from safely landed airplanes.
And the card instructs in the case of a landing on a wavy green surface (presumably the green hills, jungles or fields) to fasten seat belts and leave behind one’s briefcase, shoes, lit cigarettes, and high heel. And certainly don’t jump into the roaring flames or on the sharp rocks.
The lesson in Visual Management here is that instructions should be unambiguous and clear. As much as possible both “what” and “why” should be obvious so there is no room for questioning in the critical moment. Instructions as visual management tools should make the abnormal condition very clear.
In the case of the high heels and shoes it is not clear if merely possessing them is bad or if wearing them is bad. Common sense, you might say but what about sandals, or boots? Briefcases are not good, but what about purses? If space allows, it would be better to depict what action with these items is prohibited. The message with the lit cigarette is very clear. Take your cigarettes with you but don’t light them until you are well past the roaring flames.


  1. Andy

    September 21, 2006 - 3:42 pm

    I imagine inflatable escape slides and high heels don’t mix, let alone the risk of people falling on top of one another. I’m less afraid of boots, slightly blunter.

  2. Paul

    September 22, 2006 - 10:06 am

    However I wouldn’t want to have taken my shoes off if other people are still wearing boots!

  3. Tetsu Sugiura

    September 26, 2006 - 1:51 am

    Dear Jon,
    I think that they should use a transparent material for the pocket so that visualizaton of the safety information card will be improved.

  4. Hubert Thomas

    August 6, 2007 - 9:37 pm

    High heels (and also probably leather shoes??) are liable to damage / puncture an inflatable escape slide -which is used is a life raft if the aircraft goes down in water. Therefore airlines advice passengers to remove them in an emergency landing. The other reason is due to the angle of decent in an escape slide – it moves people very fast, upon hitting the ground one is expected to get up and run away fast. Wearing heels, shoes and carrying hand luggage can cause delay and injury.