Well, not quite “flew with” as much as we were on the same Virgin early morning flight out of New York’s JFK airport. We sat close to each other, separated only by eleven rows of Business Class pods and two rows of Premium Economy seats. So it was not that far, although I could have done better. Like using my Gold Card privilege to demand extra face time with the great man! Oh well! If only I were more enterprising in my approach with him.
However, I did follow his every move with my half jetlagged eye as he moved the curtain that separated his esteemed world from mine. Mind you, I do fly Business Class as and when Virgin wishes to upgrade me, which happens not-too-often enough, and alas, not this time either!
I did notice that something was up when the crew was unusually more friendly than…well, usual. I do fly Virgin a lot, something like 20 times a year (ok, so just one return trip to the US is 4 flights, so its not that much!) and the crew are usually friendly as long as they have their virginal-red coats on, i.e. at the gate, but once the doors are shut, its BAU (that’s Business-As-Usual for you jargon-ignorant folks).
Ah, I digress. I was going to say I followed Rich’s every move (I just can’t call him “Dick”, can you?) in and out of the toilet, and that’s only because that’s how far he would venture out in my Premium Economy world lest the ghouls of Business-Class-rejects gobble him up. Naw, I’m just being bitchy here. Ha! But I did observe him go to the toilet twice over the six-hour flight to London. And this is where things become more interesting. I guess.
Not once did I see any flight attendant escort him to the toilet, wash his ass for him (so maybe I wouldn’t see that anyway) or have someone hound him. He was the Boss of the flight after all, a-la Korean Air Lines (who cares about IATA laws that state the Captain is the Head of a flight). I did not even see the occasional packet of macadamia nuts fly through the cabin!! There was peace and quiet all round. Too quiet in fact and I fell into a deep sleep where I dreamt of Sir Rich flying through the cabin in a pink mu-mu and a red cape. Not!
I did wake up to go to the same royal toilet that Sir Rich had graced. How could I not rub shoulders with royalty after all, and better still, not sit on the same pot that his highness had soiled. Did too!
But then two things happened out of the usual, though not in the said toilet. I spied with my little eye, Sir Rich holding fort in front of a goggle-eyed audience of all the flight’s attendants, standing around the bar counter. It was Sir Rich talking with his crew, his employees, in his tell-tale soft voice, laughing with them, telling them what great staff they all were, how hard they worked, making them feel all good and mushy about being employees of Virgin Atlantic! Eewww!! Can’t he learn leadership skills from Heather Cho???
And worse was to come! Soon after, just before the un-hassled Captain announced we were going to land at London Heathrow, SRB (that’s Sir Richard Branson for you ignorant folks) came onto the microphone and thanked us for being wonderful passengers and for flying Virgin Atlantic, thanked his crew for all their hard work and for being such wonderful employees of his company! Ugh!! Hasn’t he learnt anything from American Airlines and United, not to mention Air India, that passengers are never to be thanked for spending money on their airline?!? That it’s the passengers’ privilege that these airlines fly them through all the hardship they endure?
As he left the plane, Sir Rich said a friendly “Hello” to a couple of passengers and then walked away, hands in his pocket, a man of the world, no bag. I wanted to call out to him but did not. I wanted to tell him we shared the same toilet, but restrained myself. He just looked confident and totally self-assured in walking by himself. He walked like a Leader but also a fellow passenger. Alone, but comfortable with it. Superstar!!