BBC: Virgin may scrap care in the air

The BBC reports:

Virgin Atlantic has summoned its entire crew of in-flight beauty therapists to a meeting next week, amid speculation that the service could be axed.

The airline said the meeting was part of a regular review of its Upper Class services and products and refused to comment on the rumours.

Sir Richard Branson’s firm employs 280 beauty therapists who offer a range of treatments to business class fliers.

Airlines worldwide are being forced to make cuts because of high fuel costs.

I saw a thread discussing this on FlyerTalk and it definitely interested me. First of all as a disclaimer I’ve never flown Virgin, although I’ve heard great things about them except for their onboard food service which seems to be consistently inferior. Other than that their Clubhouse, chauffeur service, great seats, onboard bar, etc., all seem to make for a great experience.

It’s also important to note that this article is all speculative so we really don’t know if there’s anything behind the story, but it wouldn’t surprise me in the least. Virgin gets a lot of hype and I think has a very loyal following thanks to their hip, trendy image. The onboard bar is a great example of that, allowing passengers to mingle, something which is very unique and certainly loved among their crowd.

At the same time getting rid of the massages seems pretty logical to me, actually. From what I’ve heard it’s a lot of hype and with so many passengers, very few actually get services. Obviously it costs a fair amount to have an onboard beautician, not only in terms of salary, but also in terms of accommodations at destinations, per diem, costs of the products used, etc., a change Virgin could probably afford to make.

In my mind the next cost cutting consideration would be getting rid of the bar and replacing seats, although I think that’s something they won’t do. While they could be replaced with several seats I think it’s a big selling point for Virgin, which is totally beyond me but I’m not really in the “I want to feel hip so I’ll fly [insert any of the Virgin franchises]” crowd. While the bar is a cool idea in general I just don’t totally get it, I guess. I know it only has a few seats so seems to have a limited amount of use, especially since it could probably be replaced by at least four more seats that could bring in a lot of money.

It reminds me a bit of my brother’s airplane fascination (hey, we all have them). Whenever I give him ideas for what airlines to fly in premium cabins, be it revenue or award, his first question is “Do they have self serve booze?” My response is always the same: “No self respecting airline would let you serve your own booze.” I guess some people really love the bar so it’s probably there to stay, but I’m betting we can say adios to onboard massages.

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