The next in-flight entertainment frontier? It’s the safety video.

Virgin America's new safety video“How many times have you been on a plane where nobody is watching the safety demonstration? People are sitting there reading the newspaper. When you look at this video, you’ll see how it grabs people. Using the universal languages of music and dance, we think even more people will pay attention, and hopefully be entertained at the same time.”

– Steve Forte, Virgin America’s chief operating officer

When Virgin America took to the skies six years ago, one of the things that stood out was the company’s in-flight safety video. It had a bullfighter. It had the bull. It had great sound effects. Most importantly, it had a WiFi router-toting nun. It was also animated and ended with a song about how “We’re all in this together” (which was eventually removed and replaced with commercials).

For the first time, an airline had the undivided attention of its passengers because it was making them chuckle about a very important bit of subject matter. And it wasn’t long before other airlines started joining in the fun. Most notably Air New Zealand, whose themed safety videos have become the stuff of legend. Their newest variation features Comedian Betty White and several of her octogenarian friends. Delta too, has its share of both fun company-made videos and hilarious (sort of NSFW) unauthorized parodies.

Today, Virgin America launched their brand-new safety video which elevates things to an entirely new level. Drawing heavily on the Virgin brand’s roots in music and having a good time, it’s quite literally like nothing you’ve ever seen before and it is absolutely fantastic (though not just because they kept the nun):

If the goal was to keep your eyes glued to your screen for the safety presentation, congratulations: Achievement unlocked. With it’s catchy music and skillful choreography, the VX Safety Dance, Virgin America has gone and turned safety into performance art. And it’s great to see airlines have a sense of humor about the boring ol’ safety speech while still recognizing that they’re required to deliver this important information to every passenger. The only challenge now is to keep people from getting up and dancing in the aisles along to the video.

“When conceiving the new safety video, it was important to us to create a concept that broke new ground and disrupted the conventional, often mundane safety instruction,” said Jason Felts, Chief Executive Officer at Virgin Produced, which developed the new video for the airline.

And he’s absolutely right. Part of the reason Virgin America’s new safety video is so spectacular is that it both showcases the company’s genetic predisposition to creativity and reinvention within the industry. As the first airline in the U.S. to offer fleetwide wi-fi and other amenities like seat-to-seat chat, they’ve thought about ways to take the flight experience to the next level. It might explain why Virgin America has found themselves with a loyal following in today’s generation of design-centered individuals.

Legacy airlines definitely took notice, and over the last few years have scrambled to update their fleets & service offerings in an attempt to retain customers. And even though the company has struggled to build a strong and profitable route network over the last several years, the company’s leadership has stated quite clearly that they’re in this for the long haul. Even though that means they have to “grow up,” as CEO David Cush said in a recent NY Times story, this new video makes it clear they’re not going to give up their sense of who they are.

That’s good news for Virgin America’s fans, and there are many of them. One of the tangible differences that the airline believes helps them stand out amongst the competition is what the company calls #myVXexperience. In 2012 they built a marketing campaign around the idea that everything on board a Virgin America flight is about making a sensory memory that stays with the passenger and leaves them hungry for more. By tying the campaign into Instagram, they made their fans part of the story. And they’re planning to do it again.

In a safety video first, members of the public will have the opportunity to be cast in a future version of the video by submitting their own freestyle “#VXsafetydance” moves via Instagram video. Top-voted videos will be reviewed by director Jon M. Chu and choreographer judges, with the winner scoring a spot in a version of Virgin America’s official safety video on flights in 2014. For more details, to enter the contest or to check out some of the dance battles already playing out to win a spot onboard, visit: www.virginamerica.com/safetyvideo

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