Airports are perhaps the least jolly of locales during the holiday season, generally filled with disgruntled people facing delays, lost luggage and other mishaps. But, thanks to WestJet, one gaggle of weary travelers was treated to a Christmas Miracle that turned an airport into Santa's workshop.

The Canadian airline, with the help of a virtual and tech-savvy Santa Claus, learned what passengers at the Toronto and Hamilton International Airports — who were waiting to board flights to Calgary — had on their Christmas wishlists this year. Once everyone boarded their planes, the WestJet team also took off — on shopping sprees, that is.

The more than 150 WestJet employees played the part of Santa's elves, gathering personalized presents, wrapping them and delivering them to the Calgary airport before the unsuspecting recipients landed. Upon arrival, the travelers received nothing short of a holiday miracle at baggage claim.

The entire event was captured via hidden cameras and turned into an ad mimicking the poem commonly known as The Night Before Christmas.

It’s the airline, though, that may have received the biggest Christmas surprise. Richard Bartrem, WestJet’s Vice President of Communications and Community Relations, said that the company had expected perhaps 800,000 views from the video. But in the few short days after Christmas Miracle went live, it had topped 13 million views*, had been seen in more than 200 countries and made the news in the U.K., Australia, Japan, Poland and Malaysia. “We’re pretty thrilled,” he said, with typically Canadian understatement.

Don’t be so modest, Richard. Christmas Miracle was a huge undertaking. In the works since August and filmed in November, it involved some 150 WestJet employees who did everything from coordinating logistics at the airport to high-speed shopping and wrapping, clearing gifts through airport security and serving hot cocoa at baggage claim.

The real payoff: good will that advertising can’t buy, for a cost that Bartrem calls “nowhere near as much as you would have expected.”

“For a traditional commercial, you could spend well into the mid-six figures for the production alone,” he says. While WestJet won’t disclose how much it spent on the video, Bartrem calls it “a mere fraction” of that. And that’s before the ad buys, which, he says, could normally run well into the millions.

The real payoff: good will that advertising can’t buy,

The airline’s Christmas-themed holiday video last year was a flash mob of WestJet employees turning a boarding gate into the North Pole. As this post went live, the flash mob video had just broken 800,000 YouTube views.

With Christmas Miracle, “the community is doing the sharing,” Bartrem said. “It’s something they want to talk about.”

That makes Christmas Miracle not just YouTube’s feel-good holiday sensation of 2013, but the kind of branding that normally only Santa can deliver.

* As of today, the YouTube video has been viewed more than 36 million times.


This article is a cutdown of two previous articles by Neha Prakash | Mashable & Andrew Bender | Forbes. Click links for full versions.

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