Monthly Archives: June 2012

Deltalina: down-to-earth girl or superstar? The chat w/ the airlineguys continues (Part 2)

Here’s Part 2 of our chat with Katherine…

Down-to-earth girl

Superstar

AG: Here’s a big question for you. (long pause) Do you like being a superstar?

KL: I am not a superstar. I’m just in my own mind, and that’s where it’s important. (laughter)

AG: Speaking of being a superstar, where did the “Deltalina” moniker come from?

KL: There was a super sweet woman on FlyerTalk that started it and said that I resembled a little bit of Angelina Jolie, and she mixed that with Delta. So, Deltalina. I’ll be compared to Angelina Jolie any day!

AG: We find you more beautiful than her!

KL: Stop it!…I’ll pay you later! (laughter) I love it! I love it! So, yeah that started, oh my gosh, 3 and a half years ago and it just stuck. So, it’s amazing that more people go, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s Deltalina!’ There are quite a few that don’t know my name. So, it’s really cute.

AG: So, do you prefer to go by Deltalina or Katherine Lee?

KL: Deltalina’s cute. It works. I like it.

AG: So, what’s next for Deltalina? You have any plans for her?

KL: You know what? I’m just enjoying my time at Delta.

AG: Let’s talk about the Delta video. The Delta safety video. We would have to say it’s probably the most watched safety video of all time. We checked this morning and there were over 2.6M views on YouTube. And that’s just YouTube. Think of all the people who’ve seen the video on the airplanes.

KL: That’s crazy!

AG: When you think back to this whole phenomena of Deltalina and the finger wag, is this what you expected when you did the video?

KL: Oh, heaven’s no! I don’t think anybody expected it to be this big. I mean, not even Delta. No. Absolutely not. And all the opportunities it has offered me have been amazing. The people that I’ve met. But never in a million years would I think that I’d be at the Munich Airport and someone would recognize me going, ‘Oh my gosh! That’s the girl from the video!’ I mean, I’m recognized all over the world and to me that’s bizarre, but great! It’s bizarre that people actually watch that video the way they do.

AG: Does that make you uncomfortable in a way when people know who you are? Just walking with you on our way to interview you, we could see people looking at you with a sense of recognition. Has that ever made you feel uncomfortable or awkward?

KL: Only when I have a really bad hair day or I have really bad skin going on or I leave my zipper open by accident. That’s the only time it’s embarrassing! (laughter). “Deltalina just walked by me and her zipper was open!” (laughter) That’s the stuff that I always worry about! Like oh my gosh, what if they catch me picking my nose? That’s the kind of stuff that makes me hyper-aware, the way that I look when I’m walking around. Like always having a smile on my face. Yeah, there’s just not a bad day for me here.

AG: It’s hard to walk in slow motion and have your hair blowing all the time too!

KL: Exactly! Because that fan gets really heavy! (lots of laughter)

AG: How has your life changed since this video went viral and took off and Deltalina became who she is?

KL: I have been able to do so many marketing events representing Delta, which has been incredibly fun. You know variety is the spice of life. Not only am I an instructor, I fly and I also do marketing. And that’s has been really, really a lot of fun representing Delta in that capacity. It’s been wonderful. Meeting new people. It’s been good. It’s offered me more variety than what I do in my work life which has been incredibly fun.

AG: I’m not sure if you remember, but I remember having a conversation with you during our time at Song, and you mentioned that you had always wanted to be in a safety video. You said it had always been a dream of yours. You were like, ‘I don’t even need a speaking role just a part in it.’

KL: Yes, I remember.

AG: Now that this has come to past, what are your thoughts about pursuing what you want and pursuing your dreams and making your dreams come true?

KL: Oh, that’s good!

AG: What advice would you give someone who’s looking to do something they’ve always wanted to do?

KL: Don’t give up! Keep on trying. I think it’s one of the great things about the company that I work for, Delta. They’ve always been inclusive of everybody. It was an open casting call for all the FAs. And then everybody auditioned and the list was whittled down. And then we were videotaped. So, everybody was given a chance to try out and then it was determined by how well you were in front of the camera. It was truly by talent, you can say. But don’t give up! I remember vividly, when I first started flying how I wanted to be in the video. I said to myself if I get in the video I will make sure I represent well, all the time. For the 4 years it’s been on, I have never dismissed anybody that has come to me and said, ‘oh you’re in the video.’ I’ve always taken a picture with them, or talked about it, or signed an autograph. And I always approach it like it’s the first time I’ve been asked about the finger wag or somebody says ‘Oh my gosh, you’re the girl!’ So, keep on trying! Absolutely!

AG: So, you’ve always wanted to be in the video. Now that you have been in the video, what advice would you give the next person(s) who stars in the video? And we’re not sure how much detail you can share with us on any plans to replace the current safety video.

KL: I actually don’t have any details regarding a replacement safety video. What I wish somebody would have to told me is that you have to have a thick skin. Because you have people that’ll always be envious. And will always be…I don’t want to say hateful because hate is such a strong word. But hurtful. And the things that they say and write. Our video was the first one that was put out on the internet before it was even put on the aircraft to kind of see how social media would take over, and word-of-mouth, and see what would happen on YouTube. And you have the kind of response on YouTube, and some things were just so nasty and people didn’t know me. I don’t think that I had that thick skin that I needed to initially kind of be confronted with all that. So, my advice is it doesn’t matter how nice you are, and how awesome you are, people will always be envious of what you have. And with people watching that video, you’re going to get that. That’s how people are. It’s unfortunate but that’s how they are. I’d tell them don’t listen to any of that hateful, mean-spirited stuff. That’s how I would set them up for success. Don’t read the stuff that’s on YouTube. It’s amazing to this day that when I fly with people they say ‘Oh my gosh, you’re so nice.’ I’m like, ‘Why would you think I wasn’t nice?’ And they say, ‘well, you know, the video.’ What about the video? People judging a book by its cover.

AG: What misconceptions do people have about you?

KL: That I have this incredible ego. That it’s all about me. That I’m stuck on myself. That I’m a complete (whispers) bitch. And I’m not. Those are the biggest things. Oh gosh! I heard a great rumor yesterday.

AG: What was it?!

KL: That apparently I had just married this movie executive out in LA and I was going to leave Delta.

AG: Wow! Any specific names?

KL: No. Unfortunately. Which is interesting because the entire crew thought that was the truth. Yeah.

AG: We heard the exact same thing a couple of days ago!

KL: Wow!

AG: We know you’ve been asked about the finger wag before. For the record how’d it come about?

KL: The director suggested I do a little finger wag. I think there were like 7 different takes. Left hand. Right hand. Kind of above where my mouth is. Below. And we kind of just tweaked it. He was just like, ‘add some personality, like add a little sass to it.’ It was a culmination of the both of us coming together. It was not my idea. It was truly his. I just put my own little twist on it.

AG: A little wag? (laughter)

KL: My little wag. A little waggy wag. (laughter)

AG: A little swagger. (laughter)

KL: A little swagger in my wagger! (laughter)

AG: Kat, we’d like to say thank you! What we set out to accomplish interviewing you was to get to the root of who Katherine Lee is, away from the personality of “Deltalina”. Who is this person who is so well recognized and has become the face of Delta. We were the face of Delta at one point! But you have become the face! That’s all capital letters, THE face of Delta Air Lines! (laughter)

KL: It’s crazy! It’s crazy! It’s crazy good! You know what? I’m just so blessed. I think back on all the years that I waited and waited and it finally happened. So, never give up!

———

After taking a few pictures with Kat, some hugs, and kisses on the cheeks, we said our goodbyes. We walked away from each other whereby she blended into the crowd of international passengers rushing to catch their flights. Unbeknownst to these customers, they’ll be seeing hearing her voice and seeing her wag her finger at them very soon.

airlineguys Darin and Sylvester with Deltalina (Katherine)

———

airlineguys™ are Sylvester Pittman and Darin Topham. Aviation enthusiasts. 30+ (and counting) combined years of airline operation/leadership/PR experience. Former cabin crew. Discerners of great customer service.

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“I’m just a down-to-earth girl” – Deltalina chats w/ the airlineguys

We’ve seen her over 2.6M times. Sassy. Confident. She grabs your attention. Once you start watching it’s difficult to look away. The voice. Clear. Each word, articulated well. Was that an accent of some sort? Not sure. The eyes. A cool blue. Piercing. The skin. Fair. Smooth. Then it comes. The moment you’ve been waiting for. Even if you haven’t been paying attention up to now, you stop what you’re doing and you look directly into her eyes and she says it. “Smoking is not allowed.” All the while she’s giving you the finger. The infamous finger wag.

 We’ve just described a moment that has taken place over 2.6M times on YouTube and countless times on Delta aircraft all around the world. What could be considered the most watched, most discussed, most debated safety video of all time features Katherine Lee as the lead flight attendant (FA). While there are many interesting and creative safety videos that have come and gone, none have captured our hearts like this one.

We recently tracked down Katherine at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.  Trust us, she’s a busy woman, who happens to fly out of the world’s busiest airport. We had requested an interview some time ago and we were finally able to arrange a sit down chat.

When we met her on the busy E Concourse, gone was the blue dress. She was casually dressed in dark-colored khakis, a white shirt, and blue zip up fleece vest. Gone was the swept-back “up-do”. Her hair was down and voluminous. Still present was her warm genuine smile, friendly blue eyes, the fair skin. Even when not dressed as the part of a FA, people recognized her. There were stares and nods of recognition as we made our way to a quieter area on E Concourse.

(A bit of background: We’ve known Katherine since 2003, the year Song Airlines, Delta’s low-fare service was launched. Since that time we’ve gotten to know her and consider her a good friend. While at Song we served as Peer Coaches together, represented Song at numerous marketing and PR events, and even flew our very last Song flight together (along with our other good friend Jo). Once we returned to Delta we again worked closely together, including facilitating customer service classes and representing the brand of Delta at various social, civil, and marketing functions. We were even in a Delta commercial together. Good times. Good times indeed!)

Jo, Darin, Sylvester, Kat – Our last Song flight together

Representing at the Today Show

After exchanging hellos and hugs we grabbed a quick bite to eat and got right into it.

AG: We’re here today speaking with Katherine Lee.

KL: Hello!

AG: Thanks for joining us. What have you been up to today?

KL: I’ve been helping FAs with their continuing training; helping them maintain their qualifications, and with safety related issues on the aircraft. Safety always comes first. And we want to make sure everybody is up to par, up to speed with what needs to be done if there were any type of emergency.

AG: So, we understand safety is the number one priority of being a FA. In addition, service is also a major part of being a FA. How important is providing service to your customers?

KL: Well, I think it’s very important. I think that’s the difference. It’s what sets us apart from other airlines. Airlines strive to be safe, and that’s the number one priority. But when it comes to customer service, that’s where you have the customers come back. That “legendary service” I like to say.

AG: How would you define customer service from your point of view? In other words, What is good customer service in your opinion?

KL: Well, I want to leave my mark on everybody. So, when they get off the plane they think “gosh, that was good flight!” and it was really, really fun because I got to fly with that crazy redhead that was in the video and she was a bundle of fun!

AG: So, it’s not like you want to leave a mark from a Sharpie, right?

KL: No, sometimes they ask for that, but I’m trying to get away from that because that can be a little bit odd. Bizarre when I have to sign in certain places. (laughter) We have an opportunity when each passenger comes on board to really make a difference and bring them back. And I know we need to work on that. And that’s what I try to do. It’s like, How do you want to be remembered when they get off the plane? It could be that they’re flying once a year and I want them to be left with a memorable experience with Delta. And remember me giving great service!

AG: So, who is Katherine Lee?

KL: I’m just a down-to-earth girl who loves my job as a FA; who loves working with people. Yeah, that’s it. That’s a harder question than I thought! Nobody ever asks me about me! (laughs)

AG: And that’s why we’re doing this interview! So, you say you’re a down-to-earth kinda girl and that you enjoy your job. You love your job as a FA. Was being a FA a life-long dream for you?

KL: You know what’s funny? My father was in the military, so growing up my first flight was when I was 11 months old my mom says. So, I’ve always been flying. I remember as a kid on the MAC (Military Airlift Command) flights, I would pick trash up and help out. My mom would ask, ‘what are you doing?’ I would say I’m just helping. I’ve always been a helper. I’m a typical Cancer, I like to take care of others. I’m just a giver. So, I think I started doing that as a child. I didn’t initially set out to be a FA. I wanted to be a vet, then a nurse, and a journalist. I thought, let me try this for a year and see what happens. And that was 15, almost 16 years ago.

AG: Wow! That’s pretty amazing. So, time is flying! Literally!

KL: Literally! (laughs) It feels like I started yesterday. It’s so crazy! This job is so amazing. It’s always a good time.

AG: What is it about being a FA that you like the most?

KL: Gosh! That’s so hard because there are so many great things! Obviously the traveling. All kinds of crazy places. I just recently did Tulsa and I had never laid over in Tulsa in all my years of flying.

AG: What?!

KL: I know! Isn’t that crazy? 31 hours! It was fun!

AG: I was in Tulsa all the time when I was flying!

KL: Really?

AG: You didn’t because you’re a speaker.

KL: I was usually flying International…Latin America. It was such a great time in the little town of Tulsa. We found some great places to eat and hang out. I think exploring new places is always at the top of the list. And meeting extraordinary people, I think, rounds out the top 2. Both of those are great.

AG: What would you say to be the most challenging part of being a FA?

KL: Dealing with carry-on baggage.

AG: Carry-on baggage?! (laughs)

KL: I’d rather eat a bug than have to deal with that baggage. (laughter) I will say this, Delta has been very proactive with checking bags at the gate. They’re being proactive to help us (the FAs) out. But it is amazing to me that people will still come on and travel with their bricks and then expect me to lift the whole thing by myself. I’m all about helping, but it’s sometimes the passengers that are the most frail who come on with the heaviest bags. And that’s just unsafe.  And number 2, the passengers who don’t want to turn off their portable electronic devices. I have an iPhone and it’s amazing how they think they turn those things off. I’m like, ‘I don’t know if you have the iPhone 10, but I turn my off where you have to swipe (gestures swiping motion), not the click.’ It’s pretty funny (laughs). Then they turn them off. So that’s #1 and #2: bags and electronic devices.

AG: So, you said you’d rather eat a bug. Is that a chocolate covered bug?

KL: Absolutely! Dark chocolate! Because it has antioxidants. Remember this, not milk or white chocolate, only dark. (laughter)

AG: That’s crazy talk! We can see that you look very healthy. Is health important to you?

KL: Absolutely! That’s why I eat a lot of Pei Wei (Asian Diner). (laughter). Brown rice. Lots of roasted veggies. Located on F Concourse. Pei Wei if you’d like for me to represent you or mention you in a tweet…(laughs)

AG: All this time we thought it was pronounced “Pee Wee”! (laughter)

KL: And his little circus, located on F Concourse! (laughter)

AG: You mentioned your father was in the military. Would you consider yourself a military brat?

KL: I am. I’m an Army brat. For sure!

AG: So, you lived in many different places?

KL: I did. All over the world. The traveling is in my blood from when I was a child. So, I adapt well to that.

AG: The airlineguys know you speak Spanish. For those who don’t know, how did a fair-skinned, light-color eyed, redhead woman come to speak Spanish so fluently?

KL: Well, my father is wondering the same thing! (laughter) And my dad thinks it was the milkman. My mother says no. You know, it’s funny. My father is from Puerto Rico. My mother is German, she still has a very thick accent. Some people thinks she’s actually speaking German when indeed she’s speaking English because her accent is so thick (laughter). But of course I don’t hear it. A lot of people say my dad sounds like Benicio del Toro. It’s odd because you don’t hear it in your own parents. But anyway, so yeah he’s from Puerto Rico so he spoke Spanish to me as a child. We also lived in Panama and Mexico growing up so I speak with more of a Mexican accent. But I haven’t been using it lately so I’m a little rusty.

AG: Well, I’m taking Rosetta Stone so we should start speaking in Spanish.

KL: Well, fantastic! Then we can watch a tele-novella together. It’s the best way to learn. (laughter)

AG: Can you say a little something in Spanish the way they would on a tele-novella?

KL: (In heavy Latin accent) Oh Sylvester! Por favor! Besame mucho! …. (tons of laughter) Click here to hear Kat speaking Spanish.  

We hope you have enjoyed Part 1 of our interview with Katherine Lee. In Part 2 of our interview she discusses superstardom. We’ll post shortly. Stay tuned…

airlineguys™ are Sylvester Pittman and Darin Topham. Aviation enthusiasts. 30+ (and counting) combined years of airline operation/leadership/PR experience. Former cabin crew. Discerners of great customer service.