A flight attendant and trained figure skater is turning the friendly skies into a fired-up dance party.
Michael Tongko became a YouTube star after the first of the year. In December, the flight attendant began entertaining passengers with choreographed moves during the opening safety announcements. There is an in-flight video of the dance that plays before takeoff, but first-class passengers cannot see it because their monitors are stowed.
So Tongko brings the show right to the aisle.
Zac Bowling posted the first viral video of Tongko's dance. The software engineer was flying back to San Francisco from Las Vegas, where he attended CES.
"Grab my camera as fast as possible!" was Bowling's first thought when the flight attendant began running up and down the cabin, gyrating while demonstrating the proper use of a seat buckle and oxygen mask. "He likes showing off, but he's a great guy."
Thanks to the FAA relaxing regulations on in-flight electronics use, Bowling was able to film Tongko. He posted the initial clip and then edited the dance so it played alongside video of what's shown in the cabin. Both have been viewed a combined 100,000 times.
"It turned him into a star internally," Bowling told us of Tongko. The passenger ended up touring Virgin America's headquarters. "He went through a lot of PR training because he's become the face of this."
By "this," Bowling is referring to #VXSafetyDance.
"Mikey's is not the typical demo for sure, but we admire his creative energy and appreciate his enthusiasm," Jennifer Thomas, a spokesperson for the airline, told us in an email. "Our intent with the new safety video was to get the attention of flyers to communicate important safety information — which can typically be dry and perfunctory and something that in the past could be too easily tuned out by guests."
Whether the message is getting across or not, people definitely seem to be tuned in. Virgin America posted the dance video in October, and it has since racked up 8.9 million YouTube views.