Quirky flight attendants not always a hit

BEN GROUNDWATER
Last updated 05:00 08/05/2014
Richard Branson
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HAVING A LAUGH: Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Blue was a fun, zany airline, but as Virgin Australia has sobered up.

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"Buckle your seat belt and hug your neighbour, folks - this Boeing is about to get going!"

There's a chuckle from a few people on board as the hostess hangs up the microphone and straps herself in, ready for take-off.

This Boeing really is about to get going - you can see she's pretty pleased with the line. 

I'm on a Southwest Airlines flight in the USA, where quirky flight attendants are apparently par for the course.

The one-liners and the high-five as I'll get as I disembark today are pretty tame compared to the Southwest hostie who went viral a few weeks ago with her take on a safety demonstration.

Whether anyone actually listened to the safety part is up for debate.

But she certainly made a splash - any proper comedian would kill for 12 million YouTube views.

Still, is this something the world really needs? Is there room for hilarity in the job of the airline hostie? 

Air travel, by necessity, is a pretty humourless affair. Try making a joke in a security queue and see how you go. Pilots have to be serious. Customs and immigration officials have to be serious. Flying, all up, is serious.

So it can come as a shock when you find an airline that doesn't take itself seriously. Check out South Africa's Kulula Airlines, which has planes with "This way up" painted on the outside, and pilots who say things like "Whoooooooa!" over the PA as the plane is landing.

Air New Zealand isn't quite like that, but it does have its increasingly well-known takes on the safety demonstration video, featuring inflight advice from the likes of the All Blacks, Bear Grylls, the Sports Illustrated models, and a man dressed as a moa.

When Virgin Blue was first launched in Australia, it was a fun, zany airline, an airline that wanted to have a bit of a laugh. I remember a Virgin Blue flight attendant who introduced his crew by saying: "Up the front we've got Candy, in the middle there's Sandy, up the back is Mandy... and I'm randy." 

There was also a story - maybe untrue, but who cares - of a pilot telling his crew to "disarm doors and cross-dress". 

Since rebranding itself as Virgin Australia and making a play for the business travellers, however, the airline has had to go all serious. No more jokes from the hosties on Virgin Australia. It's business time. 

Some people will consider this a very good thing. While there are travellers who would be quite happy to be entertained by a hostie with a sense of humour, there are plenty more who would much prefer the attendants just did the safety demo and kept quiet the rest of the flight. After all, one person's hilarious flight attendant is the next person's loudmouth.

There's probably an argument, too, that hilarity during a safety demonstration means no one will be paying attention to the actual safety demonstration. How can you be taking in important information when you're too busy laughing about the "teeny weeny, yellow Southwest bikini"?

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That's probably true, but when was the last time you actually listened to a safety demonstration anyway? Flight attendants are usually up there buckling seatbelts and pulling down masks to start the flow of oxygen while everyone else is reading the inflight magazine or pretending to sleep. You already know the drill.

I'm quite happy for the flight crew to freestyle a little when they're on the microphone. If they've got a good one-liner or a way to lighten the mood, go right ahead and throw it out there. 

Air travel is such a staid, monotonous affair that I would welcome anything to shake things up a little. I don't mind if you're not really that funny - just get up there and give it a try. A painfully unfunny hostie is still at least something to talk about.

Because here's the thing: you can criticise airlines for not taking their responsibilities seriously enough, and you might feel uncomfortable about their approach to safety. But regardless of how many demonstrations you see, or how it's presented, in the event of a crash we're all pretty screwed anyway. 

- Sydney Morning Herald

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