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Is Virgin Airways Encouraging Us to Break the Law? Or Is It Just Good PR?
By: Jeannine Wheeler
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It couldn’t have been much worse for the newest member of the "Mile High Club": handcuffed to her seat, parents sitting nearby, and the police awaiting her arrival in Las Vegas. Was the public humiliation of this Virgin Airways passenger a PR plus for the airline or a PR debacle? You decide.

Wink, wink. Are you a member of the vaunted Mile High Club, the slang term for those who have had sexual intercourse on board an aircraft?

Virgin Airways is one of the most glamorous airlines in the world, in part because of its advertising, its flight attendant uniforms, and its PR stunts, all stressing sex appeal, glamor, and personality. In its own words: “We’ve stocked our magnificent flying machines with everything your little heart could want. On-demand movies? Check. Tasty bites and satisfying libations? Check. In-flight Wi-Fi? Check. An enjoyable ride you'll actually look forward to? Check and double-check.”

Indeed, what more could anyone want?

Well, there are always some people who want more, such as the British woman who landed in humility.

But why on an airplane?

One explanation for the Mile High act is the vibration of the plane (which may speed or improve arousal), the glamorization of airline pilots and flight attendants, the lure of a stranger encounter, and finally, the taboo of doing something naughty and seemingly anonymous (that is, until you get caught).

One air transport brand is directly capitalizing on the concept.

Love Cloud is a start-up airline that allows couples to book a flight up to an altitude of at least 5,280 feet, where they can then be certified members of the "Mile High Club."

"I want it to be romantic," company founder Andy Johnson told the Las Vegas Weekly, "one of those bucket-list things that you did that you will never forget for the rest of your life."

Flights start at $800 and last anywhere from 40 minutes to an hour and a half. Inside Love Cloud's Cessna 421 Golden Eagle, there's a custom bed and a music and mood-lighting system. You can have chocolates and roses and...other things...at the ready, and the plane is professionally cleaned after every flight.
 
 Is Virgin pushing the limits?

In 2005, Richard Branson, the British billionaire entrepreneur who owns Virgin Airways, was asked by UK’s Radio 5 Live if Mile High libido was acceptable on board his air fleet. He replied, “We’re not the type of airline that bangs on bathroom doors.”

When asked if he was a member of the club, he reminisced about his own Mile High encounter: "We got quite amorous on the flight and one thing led to another as it does — there’s something about air travel."

Referencing the plush A380 airbus, Branson added: "With double beds and casinos, you know you have two ways of getting lucky on Virgin. You can do it on a cruise ship; you can do it at home. Why can't you do it in the air?"

Virgin did release a statement following the latest Mile High incident, telling the HuffingtonPost UK:  “Virgin Atlantic can confirm that due to a disruptive passenger, the VS43 to Las Vegas on the 1st May was met by authorities on arrival at McCarran International Airport.

“Virgin Atlantic does not tolerate disruptive behaviour by passengers on-board and the safety and welfare of our passengers and crew is the airline’s top priority.”

And although there is little doubt any airline would want to disrupt travel for its passengers, is it a conscious effort that having a bit of derring-do and cheek can help distinguish a brand that thrives on glamor and sex appeal?

A few recent Virgin Airways straplines — “Still Red Hot for 25 Years,” “Your Airline’s Either Got It, Or It Hasn’t” and “Flying in the Face of Ordinary” — might help answer the question.


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About the Author
Jeannine Wheeler is a PR Director who has worked in three countries, including Russia, the US and the UK. She is currently Sr. Vice President of Pure Energy PR, a full-service boutique communications firm with a focus on the energy, healthcare, technology, construction, real estate & land development, tourism & hospitality and food & beverage industries. Jeannine is in the firm's Austin, Texas office.
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