Few people like spending time in airport terminals, including even the people who work in them. But one Virgin America employee, Steve Freitag, found a way to bring a little extra joy to his passengers at San Francisco International Airport.
He doesn’t just use airplane boarding screens to inform the public. He entertains them, too.
"From the day I was hired, Virgin told its new employees, 'Bring your personalities to work,' " Freitag told A Plus. "They love it when you're creative and fun because it makes a creative and fun atmosphere."
He took that idea and r̶a̶n̶ wrote with it after the airline moved to a new terminal equipped with customizable boarding screens.
While Virgin America always stressed the importance of relaying pertinent information such as delays and weather updates, it also encouraged its employees to spice things up. "I thought it would be fun to have something to make people laugh," Frietag said. "And my management has always appreciated it."
He added that many of his co-workers often come up with creative and fun signs; he was just the one with the viral foresight to take pictures and post them to Imgur.
Freitag began taking pictures of his signs in 2012, beginning one of him in his pajamas. But while he's been doing this for quite some time, Freitag only decided to share his pictures now after Alaska Airlines bought Virgin America on April 4.
Because he considers Virgin America's quirky and fun-loving culture one of its key assets, he said "it would be a loss to the company" if they had to sacrifice it. "Our management has always been very supportive of our sense of humor. They enjoy it as much as everyone else," Freitag told A Plus. "And they come up with great sign ideas themselves."
Passengers — and the internet — wholeheartedly agree. "You know you've had a successful one when they want to come up and take a picture of the sign for their own social media," Freitag told A Plus. Many ask Freitag to be in the picture with his signs, and a couple have even taken videos.
"I hope it sends people on their way with a smile.”
Freitag stays away from any humor that could be considered mean-spirited or offensive. Instead, he said, "I like to be a little zany, and I'm not afraid to make myself the butt of the joke."
One of Freitag's favorite signs was written in honor of David Bowie's passing on January 10, 2016. "I thought the David Bowie one was pretty funny because it's not just a moving David Bowie quote," he told A Plus, "But, applied to air travel, it's completely ridiculous."
Another memorable one was his simple "boldly go" tribute to Leonard Nemoy.
Self-proclaimed lovers of all things Harry Potter, Disneyland, Star Trek, and Star Wars, Freitag and his co-workers like to incorporate "nerdy references" into their signs. So when October 21, 2015 (Back to the Future Day) rolled around, they were ready.
But these signs are more than just fun ways to pass the time at work. They can also serve as friendly reassurances for passengers who are unfamiliar or uncomfortable with airplane travel. "A lot of people are nervous about flying," Freitag said, "so hopefully this puts them at ease."
By adding that extra dose of personality and friendliness, Virgin America's unique signs remind their passengers that another human being actually does care about their well-being and will do their best to keep them safe — and entertained, too.