I confess! I had my first experience just two weeks ago. It was something I had anticipated but they swept me off my feet and seduced me. Someone else planned it all and I went along as a willing, but innocent participant. I joined the club and at 39,000 feet enjoyed every moment of it.
I refer, of course to my first experience with Virgin Blue. I admit it, I was a Qantas snob. I travelled for years with the flying kangaroo and never ever thought about travelling any other way. On this occasion my ticket was booked for me and reluctantly I ventured into the hands of Mr. Branson’s flying circus. Like a virgin, I went reluctantly to what I thought may be a cheap experience.
How wrong I was. From the moment I arrived at the checkout I was greeted and treated like a real person – take note other airlines, your ground crew are the first line of impact and some just don’t cut it. Not at Virgin. Happy, pleasant and sincere people assisted me all the way and that sent me into a new world of friendliness I had never truly experienced, when flying.
I boarded and soon discovered that it wasn’t a flying tin can. Looking up from my seat I was now looking for someone or something to break the dream run they were having. It didn’t happen. I couldn’t stop the cabin crew from smiling – did they have these smiles tattooed on them I asked? It seems not because when the time came to get serious and give us the emergency drill, the buggers doubled crossed me and soberly delivered their information with equal amounts of urgency and dare I say, reassuring humour.
Our Cabin Supervisor introduced us to the cabin crew. Upfront was her husband Ben, further along the fuselage was her second husband Guy, next was Sally her therapist. To the great amusement of every passenger this subtle humour helped relax the atmosphere and create a genuine feeling of warmth.
Virgin Blue understand people and they are very good at extending their empathy to create moments of truth. You feel their confidence and you become more than comfortable – you feel at home. And if you think this was a one off, you’d be wrong, because in that week I travelled with Virgin, long and short haul, no fewer that six times, every experience was as enjoyable as my first and it had nothing to do with the quality of the plane, its scheduling, its ability to transport or indeed the so called frills usually supplied by insincere hosts who are mostly ‘up’ themselves.
Virgin is human and its people are its great strength. They are not unlike Branson, exhibiting, panaz and celebration, empathy and entrepreneurialism. It’s the old adage, “If your product is the same, make sure your people are different.”
You’ve won me Virgin, I’ll fly with you every time. You’re fun, you’re family and above all you make me feel good. You’re an excellent example of how culture can travel and how a large company can get it so very right when others get it wrong.
You were my first experience and my mile high club credentials are now secure. Was it good for you? It was for me and I still loved you in the morning.