Last Issue – The Airline, This Issue – The Man

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Let’s see; Tux – check. Tails – check. Body Glove wetsuit – huh?

Airline CEO’s often participate in PR events surrounding airline happenings but few could match the panache and daring of the amazing Sir Richard Branson. For the record, here is an exclusive photo of his attire during a recent stunt at the 10 year Anniversary of Virgin Atlantic Airway’s UK-Las Vegas route. Incidentally, it now ranks fourth in revenue generation for Virgin’s route system. We wanted to show our readers “the man” in preparation for his jet ski ride (and dumping) around the famous fountain of the Bellagio Hotel on the Las Vegas strip. Interestingly, and somewhat alarmingly, like other Sir Richard PR stunts, his only concern prior to launching was where the jet ski throttle was located. We suspect that is most like his style of working…and living. In his autobiography, he said it better than we could, “My interest in life comes from setting myself huge, apparently unachievable challenges and trying to rise above them…from the perspective of wanting to live life to the full, I felt that I had to attempt it.”

As a risk taker, Branson is second to none. While he had to sell his beloved Virgin Record label to EMI for 500 million pounds, it kept him in the airline business. Certainly, we all now know the future of retail record stores. Good bet or good luck? You be the judge. We also should mention risk to his person with his balloon forays and stunts, which include jumping off buildings and scraping his posterior! We truly believe this guy lives a charmed life – some of it his making and some from a higher source.

But the press antics, why do it? For one, it sells the airline. How many tickets is that worth? Probably not as many as the airline would like, but having said that we remember back in the recesses of our work experience, a Boeing researcher once noted that the airline name was fourth in the order of factors in most ticket purchases. Having noted the relative importance of airline “name” in the equation, we should also point out that all things being equal, it then may have a much greater value. Tying his name, title, and manner to the airline is worthwhile, primarily if the easygoing, fun loving demeanor is also imprinted on the airline. You have only to look at the cabin crew antics of Southwest Airlines to see the value in “FUN”. Besides, we bet most travelers queried could not name the CEO of the airline they travel…with the exception of Virgin. Sir Richard is the first airline CEO IFExpress has ever written about and a plug here for the addition of Panasonic hardware is justified. In his press conference, Sir Richard extolled the value of connectivity and the future of connected entertainment. It goes without saying that Virgin will be an early adopter of the Panasonic TV and Internet solutions. You can take that to the bank.

Sadly, we suspect, he can’t go on like this forever. Time and biology limits the human condition and we guess that Sir Richard will need to reign in the physical and bring on the metaphysical. There are a lot of eco and humanitarian efforts that deserve more of Branson’s focus. We suspect he will be an early space traveler (for the airline’s sake); however, the world needs a lot of attention at the “people” level and perhaps it is time for Virgin Earth. Sir Richard, your mother is calling.

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