The Best Airline Safety Videos (And Why They Keep Getting Wackier)

 @MarkJohansonIBT
on November 01 2013 6:19 AM

Virgin America safety video Virgin America's new in-flight safety video features a "robot rap," among other odd highlights.  Virgin America

It’s a music video from a Hollywood director featuring reality stars groomed on “American Idol” and “So You Think You Can Dance.” And while it’s racing up the YouTube charts, Virgin America’s new “VX Safety Dance” is really just a cheeky, federally regulated reminder to wear a seat belt -- but one that’s got plenty of people paying attention.

Virgin America released what it’s calling the “first-ever domestic safety video set entirely to music and performed in dance” on YouTube and across Times Square billboards Tuesday, though it wasn’t seen on aircraft until Friday morning. In another safety video “first,” the carrier said members of the public could submit their own freestyle “#VXsafetydance” moves via Instagram video for a chance to be cast in future versions of the over-the-top in-flight extravaganza.

Jesse McMillin, creative director at Virgin America, said the airline wanted to give passengers “a fresh take on what a safety video could be and even a chance to be a part of it.”

“We thought, what better way to shake things up than to re-imagine the safety video through the language of music and dance,” he explained. “With our creative partners at Virgin Produced, a world class director [Jon M. Chu] and some of the best and brightest music and dancing talent -- not to mention our in-flight teammates, we brought this amazing idea to life … We hope our guests have as much fun boppin' their heads to the new video as we had making it.”

The elaborate five-minute Virgin America video is just the latest entry in airlines’ ongoing battle to create both eye-catching teaching tools and viral marketing campaigns. "The most important aspect of any safety video is that people actually pay attention to it,” Steve Forte, chief operating officer at Virgin America, explained in a statement released with the video Tuesday. “Too often the dry, perfunctory safety messaging used in the past was tuned out. We believe we have an obligation to create safety messaging that is not only accurate, but that holds the attention of everyone onboard -- from the eight-year-old traveling with his parents on up."

Virgin America was no doubt influenced by the highly successful efforts of Air New Zealand, the king of airline safety videos. The carrier’s recent productions have included the likes of Bear Grylls, Richard Simmons, Betty White, and, naturally, heaps of hobbits.

Extravagant airline safety videos like those from Virgin America and Air New Zealand aren’t going away anytime soon. You can expect a fresh round to pop up on the Web through the year’s end as airlines adapt to new regulations easing restrictions on in-flight use of portable electronics.

Scroll down for a look at some of the best releases in recent years, all of which have inspired the healthy airline safety video competition we see in the skies today.

Virgin America -- #VXsafetydance

This over-the-top “Glee”-inspired safety video features a gyrating nun, a contortionist, a rapping pre-teen and even a “robot rap.”

Virgin America -- 2007 Cartoon

Virgin America’s original cartoon safety video was called both “innovative” and “fun,” and set a high precedent for its 2013 update.

Air New Zealand -- Old-School Style

Air New Zealand enlists Betty White and her posse of retirees to joke their way through in-flight safety.

Air New Zealand -- Mile-High Madness With Richard Simmons

What do you get when you combine Richard Simmons, disco lights and neon 1980s workout gear? A safety video that you’d swear was a “Saturday Night Live” spoof.

Air New Zealand -- Bare Essentials

Yet another viral hit from Air New Zealand, this video features a cast of completely naked employees with body-painted outfits and strategically placed seatbelts and oxygen masks.

Thomson Airways -- 2009 Safety Video

The idea behind Thompson’s highly successful 2009 safety video was a simple one: Dress a few kids up as flight attendants and have them tell other little kids dressed as adult passengers how to deal with all emergency situations.

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