Richard Branson crowdsurfs for Virgin at Love

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Sir Richard, body surfing at The Rustic

If I ever thought I’d never live to see a British knight crowdsurf after a tequila shot, I would have been wrong.

On Monday night, Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group (a minority shareholder in Virgin America, but the visionary behind its service) was in Dallas at The Rustic, trying to garner support for the ability of the airline to begin flying out of Love Field when the Wright Amendment expires this October.

It seemed like a done deal when I reported it about two weeks ago: There were some formalities, but the agreement has been reached. But a campaign to prevent the flights out of two gates at Love (to L.A., S.F., NYC and D.C.) led Virgin and Branson to hurriedly schedule this schmoozefest to generate buzz for their “Free Love Field” campaign (including website and petition). You can hear part of Branson’s speech below.

Branson In Dallas

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Southwest is sharin’ the Love … with a Virgin

VA at LoveIt’s official: Starting this fall, Dallas will make Love to a Virgin.

The seven-year-old Virgin America airline, which has been flying out of DFW Airport since 2010, will take over two gates at Love Field in a deal with American Airlines. It’s something of an inside deal, since Donald J.  Carty, chairman of VA since its inception in 2007, used to be the head of AMR, AA’s parent company.

To introduce the new routes and schedules, VA is using a promotional $79 fare this weekend for its nonstop flights out of Love to not only L.A. and San Francisco, where it has long serviced via DFW, but also New York and Washington’s Reagan National.

And for those who haven’t flown Virgin, it is a delight, with the lighting of a disco, music, wired seating and wifi available on all flights.

The Wright Amendment, which has long stifled long-haul flights out of Love Field, expires in October. A multi-million dollar renovation of the history airport has been underway, and should be all but finished by the time the new service begins.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Touch down for the very 1st time

The inaugural Virgin America flights from DFW land with Texas style

Recession — what recession? In the world of billionaire businessman Richard Branson, it’s business-class as usual for his chic, sexy airline, Virgin America. Like its international counterpart, Virgin Atlantic, this is an airline built on luxury, style and fantastic customer service (even in economy class!) … and completely out of reach to Dallas travelers.

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VIRGIN NO MORE | DFW finally gets access to kooky Virgin America founder Richard Branson’s luxury line.

Until earlier this month, when it launched daily non-stops to and from Los Angeles and San Francisco out of DFW Airport. Dallas-Fort Worth represents the airlines first mid-continent destination, and during the press conference, Branson announced his intention to keep the spirit of competition alive among the other airlines servicing the North Texas area.

Branson’s wildly varied business history includes everything from humble beginnings selling Christmas trees to more curious acquisitions, like purchasing London’s premiere gay nightclub, Heaven. He’s known for brands Virgin Mobile, Virgin Records and his airlines.

The company is invested in being a part of the gay community, even in Dallas already as a sponsor of the North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce, so it comes as no surprise that there were plenty of gays and lesbians on-hand to welcome the airline to DFW.

From the moment the first flight from L.A. landed, passengers, crew and Branson himself were greeted with a warm Texas howdy on the runway. There were longhorns, cowboys, cowgirls, a full barbecue spread, champagne and cute little cocktails served in Mason jars. If it weren’t for such an over-the-top company, the yee-hawness of it all could’ve worn very thin, very quickly.

Instead, it seemed like business as usual for Branson and for a mid-afternoon workday, much better than sitting behind a desk. It’s hard to imagine more fanfare from a new destination. Well, except when the citizens of the Moon finally welcome Branson and his Virgin Galactic spacecraft sometime soon.

The festivities moved to the Winspear Opera House for an evening of more indulgences. A first-class cocktail reception with food by Wolfgang Puck Catering found Branson on a balcony like a scruffy-faced Evita speaking to his admirers below. A quick raise of his champagne glass to toast the occasion and he was off like a flash to the final act of his coming-out party: Willie Nelson on-stage for the invitation-only crowd. Mamas don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys, but if they want to be a gay-nightclub owner/music mogul/spaceman, then go for it!

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 10, 2010.

- Steven Lindsey

—  Kevin Thomas

Virgin America gives DFW another perfect HRC score, but don’t expect to get hitched in-flight

Virgin America touched down at DFW International Airport on Wednesday — quite literally as you can see in the below video — and begins offering flights from here to Los Angeles as well as the airline’s base of operations, San Francisco.

The “low-fares, high-frills” carrier brings with it a perfect score of 100 percent on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index, which rates companies according to their LGBT-related employment practices. According to HRC’s Buying for Equality guide released Wednesday, Virgin America’s arrival makes it the seventh airline at DFW with a perfect score, joining American Airlines, American Eagle, Delta Air Lines, Alaska Airlines, Continental Airlines and US Airways.

So it’s great to have another LGBT-friendly option, especially when flying to our Mecca of San Francisco. However, if after reading this recent report from MSNBC, you made plans to get gay-married on a Virgin America flight out of DFW, you might want to double-check with the airline first. According to the initial report, which was largely based Twitter updates, a Virgin America pilot veered intentionally into Canadian airspace so he could come back into the cabin and perform a same-sex wedding. Really? That’s awesome! But is it true? Well, maybe. Yahoo’s The Lookout reports:

When contacted by CBS, a Virgin America representative appeared to know nothing about a gay marriage ceremony being conducted on one of its flights — and denied that any flight had deliberately veered into Canadian airspace, for that or any other reason.

“I did briefly get a hold of the pilot for the flight, and there was no ‘diversion’ — this was part of the normal flight path,” the spokesperson said. “He actually was unaware of the reported celebration in the cabin (so reports that a pilot performed it are definitely not correct). That flight’s normal flight path (VX 28 SFO-JFK) does cross the Canadian border for a few minutes. I have not had reports from anyone else onboard however, so other than that I cannot confirm anything.”

What’s more, the Canadian Globe and Mail points out that such a ceremony, in order to be legal, would have to have a Canadian official presiding — and the couple would need to register the marriage in advance with Canadian authorities.

Another mild curiosity: In all of the articles written about the incident, we could not find a single mention of the couple’s names, nor have they appeared to come forward to reveal their identities.

The Lookout contacted Virgin America seeking clarification on the question of whether the story might be a hoax, but our calls and e-mails were not immediately returned.

Of course, Virgin would have good reason to keep the heartwarming account in play, regardless of its accuracy: Corporations have long been courting gay consumers — especially since gay couples are often two-income households without children, with sizable disposable incomes to spend on things like travel.

—  John Wright