Screw it, let's do it!

Richard Branson has been mugging for the press here in New Zealand. It is a routine he could do blindfold and probably has - like any great showman he knows the value of making an entrance. He was here to celebrate the third anniversary of the launch of Virgin services from New Zealand. Of course, being Branson, celebrate means party and probably getting wet with attractive airline employees. It is a wonderful way of making 'news' when there really isn't any, other than a vague promise to have a Virgin domestic service in New Zealand - before he returns for his next visit. That is a terrific way of avoiding commitment. If we never see a Virgin domestic airline here it may also mean Branson will not grace the screens of fawning media either. Whether that is a good or bad thing I will leave for you to determine.

In North America Virgin are more eager to carve a chunk of the domestic travel pie for themselves. It would seem they have an airline ready to go (whereas NZ comments were 'pie in the sky' remarks for easy media consumption). There is just one teensy problem. The FTA won't grant Virgin a licence. So, true to form, the company has launched a charm offensive on the web, enticing US travellers with video of what they are being prevented from having by Washington's bureaucrats. And who doesn't want what they can't have?

Watching the videos, presented in a down-home way by American employees of the firm (I suspect Branson's Britishness wouldn't go down to well in the traditionally insular Home of the Free - still smarting from the British 'invasion' by the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and Borat), there is much to make you want to travel. My favourite is the in seat entertainment system. It features in flight chat - you can select passengers to talk with on the plane, using the tv console controller - which is essentially a miniature USB keyboard. Creating a social network on an aircraft sounds kind of cool to me. I imagine it will be abused in all sorts of wonderful ways. Will it be monitored? After all, built in silent communication could be an excellent tool for hijackers to coordinate their seizure of the cabin…and who wants inflight spam?
If you do want inflight spam you can or course order it from the food menu built into the unit. While you're watching a movie or gaming with Doom (interesting choice for air travellers), select your spam sandwich, pay for it using a built in swipe and it arrives to order....

It all reminds me of the days of domestic travel in New Zealand before the arrival of Ansett. The terminals were terrible (Wellington was literally a shed), the flight was dreary - a cup of tea and a cracker…then came competition and suddenly there were Gold Wing lounges, valet parking,…later the Koru Club - it all went mad. I loved it. Weekly visits to the capitol to visit our client Mitsubishi Motors went from red-eye hell to something more like a pleasure. I have to admit that introducing inflight food service on a one hour trip never made much sense to me, but the market corrected that.

The Richard Branson brand might be becoming a bit tired to me, do I really believe he's the plucky underdog? And the schtick is quite retro. But he has more than a dash of P.T.("There's a sucker born every minute")Barnum about him and I like that.
Barnum also said “Without promotion something terrible happens... Nothing!” which Branson understands better than most.


Branson wins prize for catchiest book title…Screw it, let's do it.. If only Buddha had been as succinct we wouldn't all be in the terrible mess we are in now

While on the topic,…the future of air travel…

(Banned from the airwaves by the Advertising Standards Authority of New Zealand on the ground of 'sexually explicit' content. The ASA had received several complaints regarding the ad alleging sexually exploitative images of women. Moreover, the complaints also argued that the ad is offensive to women based upon their occupational status as airline host. On the other hand the company had argued that there was strong link between the product and scene used in the advertisement and their aim was to entertain and surprise their customers. However, acting on the complaints the advertising watchdog upheld the complaints ruled to ban the advertisement. The board further said that the advertisement would be likely to cause widespread and serious offence in the light of generally prevailing community standards.…how out of touch can these people be?)


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