Skift Take

You will dance, and you may need a bit of oxygen.

There’s a small arms race taking place between airlines. It’s not about fares or seat sizes or loyalty miles. It’s about the safety videos.

The latest salvo comes from Virgin America, and it’s a doozy.

The airline, which raised eyebrows when it produced a clever, hand-drawn safety video in 2007, decided to go Hollywood this time around. It drafted director John M. Chu (G.I. Joe: Retaliation and Justin Bieber: Never Say Never) and dancers, musicians, and choreographers from American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance to turn five minutes of instruction about things every flyer already knows about into what may be the best five minutes they’ll have in the air.

“We knew how much our guests loved the fun and irreverence of our current video, but after six years we wanted to give them something unexpected – a fresh take on what a safety video could be and even a chance to be a part of it, literally” said Jesse McMillin, Creative Director at Virgin America in a statement from the airline.

Virgin is turning the safety video into a marketing opportunity with a contest on Instagram that will result in the winner being added to the safety video when it begins appearing on planes in November.

It’s a smart move by Virgin, as the stale, FAA-mandated instructions have become a branding channel for airlines. Even stodgy, old-school carriers like Delta are trying it out, most recently with a new holiday-themed video.

Even with Virgin’s stellar effort with “Safety Dance,” the 900-lbs. gorilla of safety videos is Air New Zealand. The carrier delighted flyers last year with its Hobbit-inspired video, played up New Zealand’s outdoors allure with one by Bear Grylls, used Richard Simmons to get passengers “Fit to Fly”, and got on the Betty White train last month with a new retirement-themed video.

Behind the scenes of the video’s production

Virgin America’s animated in-flight safety video from 2007

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Tags: in-flight, safety, virgin america

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