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.

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