Sir Richard Branson wants you to join the mile-high club. If not with him, then with a fellow passenger on your next Virgin flight. Maybe in the bathroom onboard, maybe in the bathroom in the arrival terminal. It's not quite clear.
What is clear from "Sir Richard Branson's Guide to Getting Lucky (at 35,000 feet)," the brief video advertisement that the airline/music store/everything magnate just released, is that Virgin is offering a new in-flight flirtation service called "Seat-to-Seat Delivery" that allows passengers to buy each other drinks and food. Simply select what you want to buy them from the touch screen in front of you, then select their seat number. Easy!
Sounds harmless enough—friendly even. But Branson (the old rascal!) manages to spin a sweet novelty into something creepy, kinda like the sad guy at the bar sours the experience of the people around him. "Don't forget to seal the deal with a suggestive seat-to-seat chat!" he says.
Oozing with lecherous old-man-bachelor charm, poorly hidden behind his rakish grin and blonde goatee, the British billionaire offers a tutorial for beginners of how to stalk someone, midair. After leading with a few not-too-subtle innuendos ("I've been in my share of compromising positions...How do you always end up on top?"), Branson proceeds to rattle off a string of outlandish impossibilities in the non sequitur style that has driven millions of viewers to Old Spice commercials on YouTube.
Pinpoint the object of your affection. Once the seatbelt sign is off, approach her with a check for her favorite charity carried in the mouth of a puppy that you've given the power of speech to. Direct her attention to the window where she'll see your suborbital space ship composing a haiku in skywriting. Drive to your launchpad, pole vault her into the basket of your hot air balloon and take flight to your private island.
It's like Grindr, but one-sided and for the friendly skies! What could possibly go wrong?
"I'm not a betting man but I'd say your chance of deplaning with a plus-one are at least 50 percent," Branson says. What he seems to have overlooked, and what several critics pointed out almost immediately, is that people trapped on airplanes—whether on 45-minute leaps or trans-Atlantic midair marathons—don't want to be bothered to make chit-chat let alone feel the weight of obligation implicit in a gift exchange. A Smarter Travel writer notes: "It's like being trapped inside a flying meat-market bar."
Gawker goes so far as to suggest that female passengers who appreciate not being locked into small chambers with horny dudes who want to plumb them with booze will simply take their business elsewhere, ditching Virgin altogether. (Up for interpretation is whether it's ironic that Virgin is the first to roll out an insta-bang feature.)
But the question that comes to my mind is, will Branson work to incorporate such a feature into his commercial spacecraft endeavor, Virgin Galactic?