No shame. Shameless. We all knew that about Richard Branson, but if any reminders were in fact needed, here’s news: to get publicity for the newest Virgin America route, Branson will rappel 407 feet down the side of a Las Vegas hotel resort after performing an in-flight wedding on the way to the desert resort, famous for its gambling, quickie marriages and even quicker divorces. The airline will offer three daily flights between San Francisco International (SFO) and Las Vegas McCarran, giving Virgin a total of 32 daily flights. The market will be an interesting test of the Virgin product, which assumes that its richer offering of flight entertainment and on-board service will lure flyers; it goes up against Southwest, which has a half-dozen daily non-stop flights between SFO and Las Vegas, along with 35 more non-stops from nearby Oakland and San Jose Mineta international airports.
Invited on the first flight between San Francisco and Las Vegas: Kyla Ebbert, who gained her own share of notoriety when Southwest Airlines decided her outfit was too revealing and forced her to put a blanket over her knees. Branson’s stunt will be accompanied by an act by Penn and Teller, two well-known magicians whose trademark is making things disappear.
The tower-rappelling stunt is literally and figuratively far higher profile than Branson’s role in the Virgin inaugurals in August, when he initially said he would not take part in ceremonies and later took a subdued (for Branson) role. Branson’s backing of Virgin had drawn fire from US labour unions and others who oppose foreign ownership or control of US-flag carriers and the Virgin Group founder lowered his stake in the venture. But Branson seems to have overcome this sudden fit of shyness. On the other hand, given standards of self- restraint in Las Vegas, where fully clothed women are the exception rather than the rule and electric mauve is considered funereal, perhaps Branson is still low-keyed.