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Even Non-Passengers Want to Watch Air New Zealand's Pre-Flight Video

Wearing Sequins, Richard Simmons Rocks 'Fit to Fly' Safety Film

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Most airline passengers switch off when the pre-flight safety video comes on. While waiting for their plane to take off, they'd rather read or just stare out of the window than watch the familiar instructions about exit routes, oxygen masks and fastening seat belts.

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Richard Simmons re-interprets passenger safety moves as an aerobic workout -- and creates a YouTube sensation.

You certainly don't expect millions of people to seek out an airline safety film from the comfort of their own homes, but Air New Zealand's new take on the old formula has become one of the most-watched films on YouTube globally since its launch four days ago.

Thanks to campy U.S. fitness legend Richard Simmons, and a new version of Yazz and the Plastic Population's 1988 hit "The Only Way Is Up," Air New Zealand's "Fit to Fly" safety video has become a major branding exercise for the airline. It's the most-viewed clip on YouTube in Australia and New Zealand, and the second-most-viewed in the U.S.

Surrounded by people in leotards -- and himself sporting a sparkly vest -- Mr. Simmons starts the video with the announcement, "In the next three minutes we're going to work hard, work out and get you fit to fly." Safety moves are re-interpreted as an aerobic workout, including instructions such as "stretch and slide" to safely stow carry-on bags, and a grab-pull-click move for fastening seat belts. He yells encouraging phrases such as "Yeah, you're pumping it up" and scolds a guy who's using his phone to complain, "I'm in a plane full of crazies!" for not turning off his electronic devices.

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The film was created by New Zealand creative agency .99. It has a disco theme, and in addition to Mr. Simmons' bouncy starring role, features cameo appearances from star international netball player Temepara George; Paul Henry, a New Zealand TV presenter; and Air New Zealand CEO Rob Fyfe (in pink shorts and purple headband).

Mike Tod, Air New Zealand general manager marketing and communications, in a statement said, "In a matter of hours the new safety video had become a global hit and was the ninth most-tweeted-about video in the world yesterday, quite extraordinary when you consider there are 140 million tweets per day."

Air New Zealand has a history of making entertaining films. Last year it released a music video, "Hello Sunshine," filmed in Los Angeles, starring rapper Snoop Dogg and Air New Zealand's furry mascot Rico. That film has been watched half a million times on YouTube. The airline also released a safety video starring New Zealand rugby team the All Blacks.

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