The most surreal moment of the recent Virgin Atlantic Airways inaugural trip to Dubai was undoubtedly when we arrived by boat at a man-made sandbank and were greeted by Richard Branson, dressed in 60s-style union flag-patterned suit standing beside a traditional red phone box and waving madly as the assembled photographers duly snapped back.
Once on dry land Virgin cabin crew in full uniform offered everyone a glass of champagne and we had the rare privilege of being spoonfed strawberries and cream by the chief executive of a major carrier. How many people can say that?
The point of this bizarre morning was to show the UK’s media the World offshore island development, where the rich and famous will be able to buy their own island on which they can build their castle. But does Branson really need another island?
Virgin added Dubai to its network on 27 March, and as usual the media was well represented. A coachload of journalists and photographers were flown to the Emirate in fine style in Virgin’s Upper Class cabin, accompanied by Richard Branson, chief executive Steve Ridgway and a strong turnout from the carrier’s corporate communications department.
There is a tradition that Virgin knows how to party and the three-day trip to Dubai was no exception, with dune-bashing, a traditional desert feast and an inaugural party beside the iconic Burg al Arab sail-shaped hotel on the itinerary. Shame about the rain though. Apparently 350 days a year it is dry and sunny in Dubai, but we managed to catch one of the other fifteen and the final night party broke up early as guests had to run for cover and the band was forced to abandon their performance amid fears of electrocution.