If you Google the phrase "hilarious southwest flight attendant," by my count you get almost 250,000 hits.
"Singing southwest flight attendant" gets you 400,000. "Funny Southwest flight attendant" pulls up 585,000.
Each one, unless it's horribly mislabeled, shows a Southwest Airlines flight attendant going through the safety briefings and other announcements--but putting their own personal stamp on them.
Sometimes they sing. Sometimes they tell jokes.
I'm not sure that people actually remember what a singing or joking Southwest flight attendant tells them any better or worse than they would remember what other flight attendants say on other airlines.
But they do remember the experience--plus, Southwest gets an ounce of free publicity and brand/culture reinforcement, when passengers share the videos on social media.
Because the thing that sets Southwest Airlines apart from competitors like United Airlines isn't the lack of baggage and change fees on Southwest, or the expanded international destinations and higher class cabins on United.
You can take all the bags you want on United (and American, and Delta, and the others). You can almost always make changes (maybe not in basic economy). But on those airlines, everything is unbundled.
Still, Southwest sells a feeling as much as it sells the service of transporting you from A ot B. And, it all comes down to a quote from Maya Angelou:
"People may not remember exactly what you did, or what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel."
Those singing flight attendants are part of it. It's a bit of what makes people feel the way they do about Southwest, even if they don't remember any of the details later.
This is why I think it's so interesting that United made a surprising announcement this week: starting next month, it's going to encourage its flight attendants to act more like Southwest flight attendants.
Specifically, according to Zach Honig's reporting at The Points Guy, United will:
- Trim the in-flight PA announcements by 20 percent
- Make scripts easier to read, thus creating "a better listening experience for our customers," and most important to my mind
- Tell flight attendants they can "make it your own by showing your personality."
"Our new onboard announcements are a result of feedback from our flight attendants," a spokesperson told Honig. "They reflect a lighter and more conversational tone, as part of our larger effort to improve the customer experience."
Granted, maybe this is just a baby step to start. I don't imagine that our news feeds will suddenly be flooded with formerly staid United flight attendants--now rapping through the in-flight safety briefing, or marching down the aisle like it's a fashion show runway.
Still, as much as people want to be assured that their flight crews are professional, it often only improves the experience to add some personal warmth. And, there's some research out there that suggests singing makes people happier.
So, we'll see which of United's flight attendants will be courageous enough to be the first to start belting out their announcements.
My bet is you won't see much of it right away. But maybe starting on more festive days, like the crews who work on big holidays and special events. I think it could be fun.
At least it will be memorable. And most of all, you'll remember how it made you feel.