Tickets for Richard Branson cross-dressing flight now on sale

Sometimes we make bets that we that regret. While losing money makes for a hum-drum story, tales of the wealthy gambling away dignity at 38,000 feet provides a new level of intrigue. Virgin’s Richard Branson and AirAsia’s Tony Fernandes made such a bet last year over Formula 1 racing. Since both individuals not only captain airlines but also back F1 teams, the wager pitted Branson’s Virgin Racing against the Fernandes owned Lotus Racing. The loser would have to cross-dress and serve as a flight attendant on the winner’s airline for one flight.

While both teams performed horribly as new entrants into the ultra-competitive Formula 1 field and tied each-other with 0 points, Lotus Racing placed higher than Virgin Racing overall. Since Branson lost, he would be the one to slip on heels and a dress for an AirAsia flight from London to Kuala Lumpur. But that is not all, the strangeness flutters away to a loonier place from there.Before the flight boards, passengers will have the opportunity to bid on shaving Richard Branson’s legs. Since AirAsia has a requirement for its flight attendants to have shaved legs, Branson will be required to make the necessary adjustments to get up to code. The proceeds of the leg shaving auction will benefit Branson’s non-profit organization Virgin Unite.

If witnessing a leg shaving auction and being served beverages by a cross-dressing billionaire is not surreal enough, the flight will also provide in air entertainment in the form of magic shows and a live band.

The flight departs London’s Stansted airport on May 1, and tickets are roughly $7,500 each. All proceeds will go towards Virgin Unite. Tickets for the 13 hour flight to Kuala Lumpur can be purchased online through AirAsia’s website.

Photography by Justin Delaney

San Francisco’s new T2 terminal offers a variety of dining options

Gadling blogger Justin Delaney gave us a great rundown last week about what to expect at Virgin America’s new T2 home base at San Francisco International Airport. But there’s more – sure, it’s a shiny new terminal and you’ll be flying on one of the industry’s most loved airlines, but what are you going to do while waiting for your flight? Eat, naturally.

In keeping with Virgin’s reputation as the “Best Domestic Airline for Food,” (Travel + Leisure, 2009) the terminal will offer the following restaurants and dining destinations:

Napa Farms Market:
Napa Farms Market is a celebration of locally grown and produced artisan foods and wines. It celebrates the Bay Area‘s freshest culinary traditions by bringing such well-known artisan brands as Equator Coffee, Three Twins Ice Cream, Acme Bread, Cowgirl Creamery Cheese, Kara’s Cupcakes, Mighty Leaf Tea, Frog Hollow Farms produce, Napa Valley Vintner’s Association wines and Tyler Florence‘s Rotisserie of Napa together in one emporium. The market, an extension of the Bay Area‘s innovative food community, lets travelers create their own picnics-to-go, find special gifts to bring home a culinary memory of San Francisco or relax over a fine glass of wine.

Lark Creek Grill:
Lark Creek Grill, the 14th restaurant in the Lark Creek Restaurant Group, will offer many Lark Creek classic dishes and a wide-ranging menu to please all guests with choices from garden-fresh sandwiches to sustainable seafood to sizzling steaks. The offerings are designed with the airport passenger in mind – fresh, healthy and portion-appropriate. In addition to table service for approximately 120 guests, Lark Creek Grill offers takeaway options.

Vino Volo :
Vino Volo revolutionized the airport wine experience by developing comfortable post-security retreats for travelers combining a cozy wine lounge, restaurant and boutique wine shop. They offer wines by the glass, in tasting flights and by the bottle. In SFO, their home airport, they will offer a rotating menu of 22-24 wines grouped by tasting flights. The Vino Volo wine bar will be a part of Napa Farms Market.

Cat Cora:
The Cat Cora concept is a sophisticated culinary experience that focuses on using fresh and organic ingredients within its creation of innovative tapas plates and truly groundbreaking cocktails. The lounge has a strong emphasis on using locally sourced ingredients wherever possible. With its gorgeous views of the Bay Area hills, travelers will be mesmerized by the marriage of design, form and function.

The Plant Cafe Organic:
The fourth restaurant in the team’s portfolio, The Plant Cafe Organic will offer T2 passengers an almost entirely organic menu of juices and healthy meals with a focus on the local. Try the signature Plant Burger, made with lentils, mushrooms, bulgur, beets and cashews, garnished with avocado, roasted onions, aioli and cheese. It is “cooked by solar power.”

Pinkberry :
Founded in West Hollywood in 2005, Pinkberry offers the ever popular frozen yogurt stand to T2 customers.Pinkberry was rated the #1 Frozen Yogurt concept by Zagat in 2009 and is considered one of the hottest yogurt concepts in the world.

Peet’s Coffee:
Founded in 1966 in Berkeley, California, this specialty coffee roaster and retailer has a fiercely loyal and devoted following known as Peetniks . Peet’s in Terminal 2 will bake fresh pastries on site. Peet’s is also located in SFO’s Terminal 1 and Terminal 3.

The terminal opens to the public on April 14.

[Flickr via Franco Folini]

Richard Branson celebrates ten years of Virgin Atlantic flights to Las Vegas

Super entrepreneur Richard Branson just celebrated ten years of his airline flying to Las Vegas. And when Richard Branson celebrates, he does it the only way he knows how – with a hot model, a plane full of VIP’s and the mayor of Las Vegas.

Virgin Atlantic started flying to Las Vegas in June 2000, and since then, they have flown two million passengers to Las Vegas. Next year, the airline will add non-stop flights from Manchester airport, flying an additional 40,000 people a year to the local hotels and casinos.

To mark this major milestone, Virgin unveiled a one-off Las Vegas “Flying Lady” on one of their aircraft – inspired by Dita Von Teese (being held by Branson in the photo you see above). Von Teese commented on the artwork:

“It’s fantastic to be invited to mark this occasion. The pinup girl as aircraft “nose art” is a classic part of aviation history, so it is amazing for me to see myself depicted on an aircraft! I hope passengers around the world who fly onboard this plane enjoy seeing me as Virgin’s flying lady pinup!”

Full size versions of the photos are in the gallery below.


Virgin Atlantic’s pervy new in-flight cocktail

God bless Richard Branson.

According to Jaunted, Virgin Atlantic has come up with a summer promo designed to entice passengers into an upgrade. If you sit in Premium Economy or Upper Class on selected flights, you’ll get to enjoy a complimentary Virgin Redhead.

Relax, it’s just a cocktail: a saucy blend of muddled raspberries, fresh lemon juice, Cassis, and Framboise Liqueur, shaken with Bombay Sapphire Gin, and topped with float of Champagne.

The Upper Class elite can also have themselves a Redhead in VA Clubhouses in select cities. Scandalous!

[Image credit: Rocoto]

British Airways Will Repay Customers After Fraud Ruling

If you flew British Airways between the U.S. and England from August 11, 2004 to March 23, 2006, you may be in luck. BA was caught charging passengers a fuel surcharge that went beyond the actual cost of the gas. The scandal also involved Virgin Atlantic, so travelers who flew with that airline during the above dates are eligible to get in on the action.

Don’t start getting excited or jumping up and down like you’ve won the lottery. The maximum refund per person will be around $20. Still, that’s four beers or five lattes or a fairly decent haircut (in some cities).

Those who are eligible for a refund can apply online with their ticket info, passport number, or frequent flier card. Those who didn’t fly BA or Virgin can still feel good because, for once, big airlines got caught with their hands in passengers’ pockets.

With most airlines going out of their way to cut costs and nickel and dime passengers with added fees, it might not be the last time something like this happens.

Several BA and Virgin execs involved in the surcharge scandal will be doing some hard time after being charged with fraud.

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