True to his word after losing a bet to AirAsia CEO Tony Fernandes, Sir Richard Branson, founder and chairman of Virgin Group, yesterday worked as a ‘trolley dolly’ on AirAsia’s inaugural Perth to Kuala Lumpur flight.
We knew this was coming. Branson squared his shoulders, planted his feet and stood strong with shaved legs, face makeup and AirAsia’s signature tight, short red skirt.
Knowing that stumbling characters linger longer, he began by fumbling a safety presentation and then carried a drink tray, which he accidently dumped on Fernandes.
“It slipped, it really did,” said the 63-year-old Branson. Fernandes, who once worked for Branson, was all smiles, changed into dry clothes and ordered Branson to clean toilets.
Here’s the video and story as reported by The Telegraph.
The initial wager centered on the two CEO’s Formula One racing teams – Virgin Racing vs. Team AirAsia. They bet on whose team would finish highest in the 2010 Formula One Grand Prix championships in Abu Dhabi. It took a few years to ante up, but the real winner was the Starlight Children’s Foundation in Australia.
Fares for the sold-out inaugural started at US $352 one way, and $102 from each sale, plus 10 percent of all in-flight sales sold onboard, went to the charity.
Why did it take years for Branson to pay the debt? “First, I broke my leg, then the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge decided to get married, then I burnt down my house on Necker Island,” he said.
Branson was in Perth last week to launch his newly acquired West Australian airlines. There were more than 50 international press onboard the inaugural AirAsia flight. Not a bad PR payday for a couple of aviation tycoons (one dressed in drag and maybe their best thinking got them there).
Five-year-old Malaysia-based AirAsia has just announced plans for an initial public offering hoping to raise $300 million as they take delivery of seven Airbus A330 planes this year.
Branson, who has a reported net worth of $4.2 billion and can do smart, silly and brave, acted the ‘trolley dolly’ role to the nines. Keep in mind this is the guy who played for way more than he could afford to lose between 1995 and 1998, when he, Per Lindstrand and the late Steve Fossett made daring attempts to circumnavigate the globe by hot-air balloon.
They did succeed with a record-breaking flight from Morocco to Hawaii but were defeated in achieving the record when Bertrand Piccard and Brian Jones in Breitling Orbiter 3 succeeded in March 1999.
But Branson and Lindstrand are in the Guinness Book of World Records for their 1991 first Pacific crossing by hot-air balloon. And this is little known, but Branson also is a world-class paraglider pilot.
As an innovative CEO, he’s up there with Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerburg and Jeff Bezos. As a lady-boy, well, you decide.
As for Branson’s days as a flight attendant, Fernandes had the last word and fired the Virgin upstart on arrival in Kuala Lumpur.
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