Friday, March 04, 2005

A Virgin Comes To Kansas

This particular Virgin is in the form of a uniquely designed airplane that landed in Salina, Kansas after making a record breaking flight. Steve Fossett, the millionaire adventurer and pilot, completed the solo, non-stop, around-the-world journey after flying 23,000 miles in 67 hours. Mr Fossett managed to endure cramped conditions, lack of sleep, no access to real food and the fact that there was no working toilet on the Virgin Atlantic Global Flyer. Perhaps he practised for the flight by taking an economy class trip from St Louis to Salina; that would effectively simulate the 67 hour duration and the other flight conditions. On the other hand he did not have to listen to the ‘buckle to buckle seat belt’ announcement, eat any stale peanuts, or wait 45 minutes for a gate to open up after landing.

Waiting to greet Mr Fossett was Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin brand and provider of the funding for the Global Flyer’s record achievement. Richard Branson is a household name in the UK. In addition to being a semi-professional balloonist, Branson has created a business empire that works hard to understand what the customer wants and then to deliver it. Branson developed Virgin Music; he then went on to Virgin Cola and Virgin Vodka. It seems that it was obvious to him that if you had music and mixed drinks, you had the basic ingredients for an airline; thus was Virgin Atlantic born. The upstart airline took on British Air and in the process became one of the best long haul carriers in the world. When BA (the national ‘flag carrier’ of Great Britain) decided to repaint the tails of their planes, Richard pulled off a coup. BA was busily painting over the British Flag with aboriginal designs, Kenyan cave drawing figures and Zulu tapestry patterns. Richard had his planes painted with the British flag to complement the svelte young lady in a one-piece swim suit that graces every aircraft in the fleet. Richard 1 – BA 0 in the brand match. Whilst BA was happily giving their planes names like Loch Lomond and Princess Royal, Virgin planes got names like Ruby Tuesday and Tubular Girl. Richard 1 – BA 0 in the fun match. Series score 2 – 0.

The latest match has ended in a tie however; both BA and Virgin Atlantic won. Recently BA decided to discontinue service to Riyadh and Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, effective 27 March. The flights were unprofitable. Richard saw a chance to raise the score to 3 – 0 and applied for the routes. He was happy to get one over on BA. The Saudis were happy to have another carrier besides Saudi Arabian Airlines provide service. Everything was set – until the Saudis realised the problem with the paint job. The British flag was no problem. The name Tubular Girl might make it past the Grand Mufti. But the good looking babe in the one piece swim suit was simply not acceptable. This put a serious crimp in the business plan. The cost of repainting the planes so that the good looking girl was depicted wearing a burka blew the profit margin. So Virgin Atlantic will join BA in flying to Dubai and the score is Richard 3 – BA 1. There might be 72 virgins in paradise, but there’s one less Virgin in Saudi Arabia.

Of course, if you want to fly from Heathrow to Jeddah, the score for you is 837 against. There is no booze on Saudi Arabian Airlines. There is no queue for the toilet but you can’t get there anyway because the queue for the prayer rug runs the entire length of the plane. Movies are allowed but any female character (including, apparently, Dorothy from Kansas) is blurred out unless she is wearing a burka. As a final insult, the stale peanuts meet all of the dietary restrictions.


Blogger Aaroncoal said...

There are plenty of virgins here in KS. Dorthy isn't the only one.

9:17 PM  

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