Anyone who has bonded with a favourite TV show or obsessively re-watched a viral clip on YouTube knows the power and potential of video. But few airlines have fully engaged with the medium. That’s because video production is expensive, time consuming, and potentially risky. Here are a handful of airlines that have boldly launched their own YouTube channels with varying degrees of success:

Delta Air Lines:

http://www.youtube.com/user/DeltaAirLines
Joined: May 11, 2006
Subscribers: 2,005
Channel Views: 87,705
Videos: 47

Delta plays it safe, but with style. Along with the obligatory flight safety videos (in English, Hindi, Japanese and Spanish) viewers are treated to an unguided tour of the Miami Sky Lounge, a crash course on how to use Delta’s check-in kiosk, and 25 intimate and in-depth city guides hosted by Delta employees. Hats off to Delta’s sound team for spicing up the clips with surprisingly good ambient music.

United Airlines

www.youtube.com/user/uniteditstimetofly
Joined: July 29, 2008
Subscribers: 385
Channel Views: 86,033
Videos: 7

No airline today needs a first-class YouTube presence more than United Airlines. Last month, musician Dave Carroll posted a video to the site in which he tunefully accused the company’s baggage handlers of breaking his $3,500 guitar. “United Breaks Guitars” quickly went viral, garnering more than 5 million views and heaps of media coverage.

So far United Airlines has failed to respond in kind and its YouTube channel is littered with comments from angry musicians vowing to boycott the airline. We know we’re not the only ones waiting to hear an equally tuneful apology performed by musically-inclined United employees. Until then, we’ll have to settle for a time-lapse video of a United 747’s construction.

Qantas Airways

http://www.youtube.com/user/Qantas
Joined: February 14, 2006
Subscribers: 886
Channel Views: 42,856
Videos: 54

Aside from a few television ads and some historical footage, the Aussie airline’s YouTube channel is all soccer all the time. Fans can feast on interviews and post-game roundups with members of the Qantas Socceroos, the company’s world-class squad.

Virgin Atlantic Airlines

www.youtube.com/user/ThisIsVirginAtlantic
Joined: October 16, 2008
Subscribers: 354
Channel Views: 18,118
Videos: 38

Welcome to the family channel. Virgin groupies can watch Holly Branson, daughter of Virgin founder Richard Branson, talk about the airline’s charity work or follow Sir Richard himself on an eight-day trip around the world. By spotlighting the Bransons, Virgin succeeds at being both personal and promotional at the same time.

Southwest Airlines

www.youtube.com/user/NutsAboutSouthwest
Joined: June 06, 2007
Subscribers: 662
Channel Views: 31,332
Videos: 129

And the Aviation Oscar for outstanding performance on YouTube goes to… 38-year-old Southwest Airlines. The Dallas-based company takes social media engagement seriously, and its YouTube channel is no exception. We’re big fans of the “My Old Man in Maintenance” series, which stars the airline’s emerging media maven, Christi Day. In each episode, the affable Day interviews her father, a longtime Southwest maintenance man, about hydraulic systems, aircraft flaps and other esoteric airplane parts.

We also recommend joining the roughly 53,000 people who have witnessed Southwest’s rapping flight attendant. And if that’s not enough, check out the audacious “Twitcom,” in which Southwest staff members act out a script written by the airline’s loyal Twitter followers: