’50 Shades Of Grey’ At 35,000 Feet

Ana Steel’s inner goddess is doing backflips. You can now hear the juicy details of the cult favorite “50 Shades of Grey” live via in-flight audio book on Virgin Atlantic.

The book follows the exploits of Anastasia Steele, a virgin who meets a wealthy businessman with particular tastes in the bedroom. It has already sold over 10 million copies.

“‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ has quickly gained notoriety as a ‘naughty novel,’ leaving some women embarrassed to read their copy in public. We want to give our female passengers the chance to enjoy the book in an intimate way, without prying eyes. Of course, we can’t promise to spare any blushes and can’t be held responsible for any risqué behavior that listening to the recording inspires,” said Sarah McIntyre, Virgin Atlantic spokesperson.

These audio books are a feature of the planes’ InFlight Entertainment Systems.

Let’s just say we think you’ll be able to tell who is listening by the squirming and shocked facial expressions. We hope nobody decides to try out some of the book’s signature moves in the airport lavatory, either.

Airlines fined for price-fixing, $1.7 billion so far

U.S government prosecutors have fined 21 airlines $1.7 billion to date in a price-fixing scheme that has cost America’s flying public and cargo shippers millions in a case that dates back to 2000.

Rather than fix problems plaguing the airline industry a decade ago, executives at global carriers scrambled to find an easy way out and avoid financial ruin reports the Associated Press. Between 2000 and 2006 airlines artificially raised passenger and cargo fuel surcharges to make up for lost profits.

“As an example of the impact of the conspiracy, fuel surcharges imposed by some of the conspirators rose by as much as 1,000 percent during the conspiracy, far outpacing any percentage increases in fuel costs that existed during the same time period,” said former Associate Attorney General Kevin J. O’Connor.

They might have not been caught either had it not been for two airlines coming forward to turn in their conspirators. Admitting their “mistake” allowed Lufthansa and Virgin Atlantic to take advantage of a Justice Department leniency program for helping in the investigation. Still, the two airlines were fined over £120 million after admitting to fixing prices on fuel surcharges.

From fines to prison time for airline executives, penalties vary among individual airlines.

Gadling has been following this story all along and in 2008 told of Qantas airline’s involvement . In the case involving Qantas, the price fixing scheme had a focus on their freight division.

It was the freight division of China Airlines too that earned the airline a $40 million fine in the price fixing conspiracy just last September.

Announcing four guilty pleas in June 2008, O’Connor told the Associated Press that the cases “conservatively, has affected billions of dollars of shipments. Estimates suggest that the harm to American consumers and businesses from this conspiracy is in the hundreds of millions of dollars.”

Airlines fined for price-fixing include British Airways, Korean Air, and Air France-KLM but no major U.S. carriers as the case continues. So far, two former executives have been sentenced to six months in prison and two others were ordered to prison for eight months.

Ongoing charges are pending against 15 executives, nine of whom are considered fugitives.

Flickr photo by BriYYZ

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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.


Gadling app review – Virgin Atlantic Flying Without Fear (iPhone/iPod Touch)

Several days ago, Katie mentioned a new application from Virgin Atlantic called “Flying Without Fear”. I’m always on the lookout for new and innovative travel apps, so I took this one for a spin.

The first thing you notice in the application is how well it is designed – the colors are all in the familiar Virgin tints (red and purple) and navigation is a breeze. The best place to start is with the introduction video.

Richard Branson himself welcomes you to the application, and lets you know he’d love to meet you “up there” some day. Part two of the course is an explanation of the in-flight experience. This 11 minute video clip walks you though the various stages of flight.
Inflight experience video

The video is presented by a Virgin Atlantic pilot, so he knows a thing or two about the plane. During the video, you’ll be taken from the preflight portion of the flight to the final stages. He explains all about the noises you’ll hear on the ground and why you see pilots walking around the plane on the ground. The clip is very entertaining, but also quite detailed – down to the noises you’ll hear when flaps are positioned on the ground. And finally in the preflight portion, the pilot even explains what those dings are you’ll hear right before takeoff.

The takeoff portion is equally detailed – describing the exact procedure, and what all the bangs and when you can expect the engines to power down a little. The video also shows the flaps retracting, and what to expect once at cruising altitude.

In the “cruising” portion, the pilot explains the one part of flying that most people hate the most – turbulence. He explains that aircraft are designed to deal with turbulence, and that it is normal for wings to flex.

The descent and landing part once again describes the various engine noises you can expect , and what slats and flaps are doing. Especially if you are sitting near a wing, learning what these things do is quite helpful. Landing gear deployment is described, and the final approach is explained in great detail, down to the speed at which you’ll be hitting the ground.

And finally, the video explains a go-around, or an aborted landing. I’ve been through quite a few of these, and I can see where they’d be pretty scary for people with a fear of flight.

Common questions answered

Part three of the course answers all the common questions many people have when flying. It is split into various portions (engines, landing, pilots, sounds, takeoff, weather and wings). Audio clips answer almost 25 different topics, from in-flight medical emergencies to why a water landing is safe.

Each answer is very comprehensive, and once again, a Virgin Atlantic pilot answers the questions.


Once you have followed the course, you can begin on the exercises. Think of these as a kind of hypnosis. A very soothing voice leads you through the entire stage of flight.

From booking the trip to arriving at your destination. The voice is amazing, and I can really see people being relaxed listening to him. Ten different stages are offered, and you can start listening to them before you even consider taking a flight, just to get a good idea what to expect.

Fear Attack

The same soothing voice as in the exercises also helps you get through a fear attack. Part one is a breathing exercise, designed to calm you down and get your mind off the flight. This portion also provides some basic tips, like talking to your seatmate or getting up to walk around.

Managing your fears

In the final portion of the application, you can “rate” your air travel fears. After you select which portions of a flight you are the most scared of, you add the date of your flight. Then, on the day you fly, the application will send push reminders with alerts and schedule reminders.

Final thoughts

There is no denying it – this is one amazingly well designed application. I’m really impressed at how personal they made it – instead of just a couple of screens showing how to deal with your fear of flying, the app almost holds your hand and guides you through each step. The pilot video is fantastic, even for someone who does not fear flying.

The pilot narrated audio guides are also great. So many topics are covered, and the various portions create a very good resource for learning about flying. And finally, the exercises are just plain brilliant – I love the voice used to narrate these, it is so soothing and reassuring.

All the content is stored on your device, so you do not need to be connected to the Internet to take advantage of it. This means you can sit back, plug in your headphones and listen to the course whenever you want.

Of course, everyone has a different way they deal with their fear of flying, and I’m by no means able to claim this application will cure all your fears, but at $4.99, it really is worth trying. You’ll find the Virgin Atlantic Flying Without Fear application in the App store (iTunes link).


New Virgin Atlantic iPhone app helps people with a fear of flying

I suffer from serious anxiety while flying. I’ve tried learning about the mechanics of flight, popping Xanax, I’ve even taken a flight lesson in an effort to cure my fear. Sometimes I can stay calm, but on other flights, for apparently no reason, I’ll suddenly have a panic attack. It’s more than a small problem.

For people like me, Virgin Atlantic has created a new iPhone app based on their Flying without Fear class. According to a press release, their course has a 98% success rate for helping fearful flyers cope. The iPhone app takes elements of the course (which recently helped Whoopi Goldberg manage her fear) and offers a mobile solution for use during the flight. Passengers can watch a video explanation of how planes work, read answers to frequently asked questions, and follow along with deep breathing and relaxation techniques.

There’s also a “fear attack” button for emergencies. The problem with that idea being, of course, that when I truly panic – shaking and hyperventilating – I don’t really have the capacity to hit my fear button and read and process the information. I’m too busy trying not to cry. But perhaps reviewing the information beforehand might help if a moment of panic strikes.

The Flying without Fear course usually costs about $350; the iPhone app is $4.99 in the iTunes store. Even if the app only helps a little, it sounds like a sound investment to me.