Virgin’s artificial reality


We’ve all seen those airline ads that tout splendid service. They’re good for a few laughs. But the rhetoric in the magazines and on TV never seems to match the reality in the sky.

Normally, this disconnect is something that I let roll off my back. It has never really bothered me.

Until recently.

I subscribe to many business and travel magazines and have been bombarded with a series of Virgin Atlantic advertisements for their Upper Class service that are bound into the publications. They’re cleverly designed to appear to be emergency information cards normally found in airline seatback pockets.

Personally, I think the Federal Trade Commission – or whoever is in charge of preventing the public from being misled – should investigate Virgin’s campaign.

These silly ads don’t do justice to the seriously excellent service they promote.

A card depicting a sleeping passenger having his fingers dipped into a container of warm water conjures up visions of Boy Scout summer camp, not luxury. The explanation of the difference between motorcade and limousine doesn’t seem to make much of a point. Passengers removing seats to take them home is over the top.

And I’m still not certain whether the Virgin Limobike ride to Central London exists or is simply a joke. (I think it may actually exist.)

After scores of transatlantic flights in business and first class cabins, I can attest that Virgin Atlantic Upper Class service goes far beyond the First Class service touted by other major airlines.

Service starts from the moment an Upper Class traveler leaves for a trip. Some Virgin locations provide transfers to and from the airport. In London, Virgin offers hassle-free “drive-thru check-in” that allows passengers to go through a security screening, check luggage and receive boarding passes without leaving their limousine. Passengers are then dropped off at departures to clear immigration and normal bag screening and head to the Virgin Clubhouse.

The lounge service is a cut above others with the option to have a meal on the ground so that sleep time in the air on night flights is maximized. Some lounges provide hairdressers, beauticians, showers, massages, cleaning services, video games, music rooms, libraries, and more. The Virgin Clubhouse experience is closer to being greeted at an upscale spa rather than preparing for a long-distance flight.

The new Upper Class Suites provide an ingenious leather lounge chair that flips over to form a flat bed with mattress. Recently, Virgin announced it is even creating double beds in the sky.

The normal Upper Class seat slides forward and down to provide plenty of room for repose. And the complimentary sleep suit and duvet make dreams come easier.

Each Upper Class passenger can get a massage during the flight. Trained therapists will work on your back, arms, hands, scalp, or face. And some flights offer a manicure. These services provide a level of luxury and comfort missing from any other in-flight service I know of.

If sleep is not your priority, there is an on-board bar complete with bar stools where passengers can mingle, the meals are excellent and the Virgin entertainment system is the best in the air. It offers scores of TV shows, movies, music and video games that are all controllable from each individual seat.

Don’t let the lowbrow Virgin Atlantic advertising campaign fool you.

What Virgin seems intent on presenting as comical, whimsical and droll, is currently the state-of-the-art, door-to-door, unexcelled long-distance luxury service offered by any airline in the sky today.