The first-class seats on US Airways flight 714 from Philadelphia to Venice on Sept. 18 looked like ordinary first class seats. They felt like ordinary first class seats. But they were anything but ordinary. Continue reading…
David Holmes probably needs no introduction. But just in case you haven’t heard of him, he’s the 40-year-old Southwest Airlines flight attendant whose in-flight safety announcement is making the rounds on YouTube. I asked him how he became the rapping flight attendant.
Q: Where did you come up with the idea of rapping an in-flight safety announcement?
Holmes: I did my first rap for our flight attendant graduation class. And I quickly realized, as I began flying, how many customers tune-out when we start demonstrating that very important information. I wanted a way to keep their attention. From there, it just took off.
Q: Whose idea was it to tape your in-flight announcement and put it online?
Holmes: The one that started all of this was recorded by a customer on her cell phone. We were having a great time and, at the end of the flight, she said “I’m going to put this on YouTube.”
Q: It sounded like you had a lot of practice with that particular song. Have you delivered that safety announcement before?
Holmes: It’s been an evolving performance. I have several versions to mix and match through any part of the flight.
Q: Did you expect the reaction?
Holmes: The reaction almost always surprises me because it’s just so much more than I expect. I read the room, you know. Some flights are all business. But most of the time, I know they’re going to like it and it’s going to make the flight more fun.
Q: I hear some Old School cadences in your rapping. Who are your musical influences?
Holmes: As you said, anything Old School — LL Cool J, Busta Rhymes, Lil Chris.
Q: When you have an idea for something like this, what’s the standard operating procedure at Southwest? Do you ask for approval from a supervisor? Do you have to run this by anyone before delivering it?
Holmes: The very first flight I rapped on happened to have a Southwest Airlines flight attendant supervisor on board. When she said ‘nice job,’ I knew it might be a hit.
Q: The Federal Aviation Administration has some pretty strict requirements about in-flight safety announcements. How did you ensure that you met those, while still maintaining your artistic integrity?
Holmes: Everything we have to say is carefully scripted for us — all the safety information. As you know, one challenge is getting people to listen — the other is making sure they have all the info. Why shouldn’t it be fun?
Q: How have your colleagues reacted to your YouTube stardom? How about other passengers?
Holmes: I know it’s catching on because on almost every flight I get a customer or a fellow Employee saying ‘Wow! I just saw you on YouTube or TV.
Q: What’s next for you? Has anyone offered you a contract?
Holmes: Still waiting.
Q: People will want to know where they can catch your next in-flight safety announcement live. What flights are you on these days?
Holmes: I’m based in Las Vegas but I’m all over the map — and I don’t know where I’ll be until a week-or-so out.
Q: Would it be asking too much for an encore performance?
Holmes: This is flight 372 on SWA
The flight attendants onboard serving you today
Theresa in the middle, David in the back
My name is David and I’m here to tell you that
Shortly after takeoff, first things first
There’s soft drinks and coffee to quench your thirst
But if you want another kind of drink then just holler
Alcoholic beverages will be four dollars
If a Monster energy drink is your plan
That’ll be three dollars and you get the whole can
We won’t take your cash, you gotta pay with plastic
If you have a coupon, then that’s fantastic
We know you’re ready to go new places
Open up the bins and put away your suitcases
Carry on items go under the seat
In front of you so none of you have things by your feet
If you have a seat on a row with an exit
We’re gonna talk to you so you might as well expect it
You gotta help evacuate in case we need you
If you don’t wanna then we’re gonna reseat you
Before we leave, our advice is
Put away your electronic devices
Fasten your seatbelt, then put your trays up
Press the button to make your seat back raise up
Sit back, relax, have a good time
It’s almost time to go, so I’m done with the rhyme
Thank you for the fact that I wasn’t ignored
This is Southwest Airlines, welcome aboard
After reading Robin Preston’s letter to American Airlines this weekend, I realized there was only one reasonable explanation for what happened: They’ve discovered time travel in Fort Worth.
Preston, a frequent flier on her way from Miami to Dallas in economy class, had such a positive experience — that’s right, positive — that she not only wrote a letter praising her flight attendant, but she also copied me on it.
I get so few letters of commendation (maybe because I’m the travel industry’s unofficial complaints department) that I just had to pass this along to you, dear readers. And I think there’s only one logical conclusion: Someone used a time machine to transport a pre-deregulation era, 1970s flight attendant to 2009.
“I have never been so impressed with a flight attendant as I was with Mary Beth,” Preston writes, calling her an “amazing flight attendant.”
When we got on the plane it was so incredibly hot. She smiled and offered water to me as well as other passengers.
Soon the pilots came and we were underway. When drink service began she was happily chatting with people. When she got to my seat, I asked her for two beers but I asked her to hold one for me on ice until I was finished with the first one. She said of course and told me where it was on the cart in case I stopped a different flight attendant.
After jokingly informing me of the $20 “handling charge” — we had a nice laugh about that among my seatmates) — she processed my transaction and moved on.
I sat for about another 30 minutes leisurely drinking my first drink and reading my book. I had just finished my beer and was putting up my tray table and stowing my book so I could get up and go to the back galley to ask for my other beer when here comes Mary Beth strolling down the aisle with my other beer.
She could definitely read the astonished look on my face when she informed me with a wink that she could read minds. I thanked her profusely and, for the first time in a long time, truly enjoyed the rest of my flight.
It’s unusual to find a flight attendant whose attention to detail and service are so exceptional, we want to tell the world about it. I’ve had only a handful of those experiences in the last decade. Like the Delta flight attendant who offered me a shot of tequila when he noticed I was not having a good day. Or the Southwest flight attendants who gave my kids little plastic wings and coloring books, and took the time to talk with them. And yes, the American airlines attendant who offered me a drink when she noticed that I had slept through the beverage service.
Mary Beth was that kind of attendant.
She was kind enough to make the honeymooners were seated together. She cooed to a baby that was getting fussy while we were waiting on the pilots. She even joked with her colleagues and just generally made everyone on the plane more comfortable.
In 2009, you’re far likelier to find flight attendants who are unhappy and bitter. Like the Air Canada flight attendant who barked at me because my carry-on luggage was too big to fit into the overhead bin of the regional jet (never mind that I’d asked the ticket agent if it would fit, and was told “yes.”) These crewmembers are no longer here to make our flight more enjoyable. Their motto is: “We’re here to save your butt, not kiss it.”
What a terrible perversion of a once-proud profession.
People like Mary Beth remind all of us of the way things used to be — and still can be.