Our Online Travel Editor recounts a whirlwind flight that made aviation history and changed her perspective forever. Read the interesting story here!
By Ellyse Ng
“He’s coming, he’s coming”. There was an excited buzz in the air. My head spun from my 6 hours flight from Kuala Lumpur to Perth, just to see ‘Mister Virgin’ himself. Suddenly, the crowd rushed to the entrance of the VIP lounge of Perth International Airport, and there, clad in his red AirAsia cabin crew uniform (complete with fishnet stockings and red ballet flats), Sir Richard Branson stepped out with his coifed head held high and his AirAsia handbag on his shoulder.
Just this morning, I touched down in Perth – blurry yet excited. Today’s the day I get to meet the great billionaire up close, along with inspirational entrepreneur Tony Fernandes. Two brilliant minds, one crazy bet! Just over two years ago, the both made a bet and to cut a long story short, the loser (that is Sir Richard) will serve onboard the winner’s airline. Two years down the road and some fine-tuning later, the originally ‘fun and spontaneous’ bet is now back on…for a good cause! The special AirAsia X charity flight from Perth to Kuala Lumpur aims to raise funds for the Starlight Children’s Foundation, a body specially created to assist and support seriously ill children, helping them feel better about themselves, expanding their creativity and giving them a sense of belonging.
The flight was crowded of course, but that didn’t dampen Sir Richard’s spirit at all. He strutted through the immigration check-points with much flair (and the blatant lack of a female’s finesse to wear a skirt), smiling warmly at the media fanfare he has caused with his presence. A light-hearted moment was shared between him and Tony Fernandes, when Tony introduced his latest (and hottest) recruit, and Sir Richard promptly planted a big wet kiss on Tony’s cheek. Of course, playing his ‘damsel-in-distress’ role down to a tee, he even got Tony to carry him just like how a shining knight would carry his maiden. Not an easy task, since Branson overshadowed Tony by a head and a half.
In the plane, Branson’s career as an AirAsia flight attendant was taking off…or maybe not so. Revenge is sweet, but it’s even sweeter when you’re wearing a dress he’s put you in and spilling an entire tray of drinks all over him. Yes, to true Branson/Fernandes fashion, let me just say – Tony was soaked, Branson was laughing, and all was done in the name of entertainment! My initial impression of millionaires never stepping out of their comfort zone was proven wrong, as the funny moment continued with Branson slowly and seductively wiping the juice from Tony’s clothes with a cheeky grin on his face. “I’m so sorry Sir; let me get you nice and dry”. Funnily, Tony seemed to be enjoying the moment as much as we did *grin*.
The flight took off smoothly, and the blonde-wigged cabin crew started their safety demo. Of course, Sir Richard clowned away with his own version of “what NOT to do in an emergency”, much to the delight of everyone! Once the seatbelt sign was turned off, he proceeded to walk down the aisles to greet the guests onboard. I waited in anticipation!
Despite the many members of the media constantly surrounding him and plaguing him with questions, Sir Richard Branson made every effort to shake each guest’s hand and obliged with a picture or two. Standing before me, he held out his hand and shook mine firmly. “Hello darling, how are you today? Crazy day, huh?” I numbingly nodded…star-struck. He continued to smile warmly as I handed him a pen and held out the exclusive AirAsia X Branson Flight tee I was wearing. “Of course dear, I would love to”, as he proceeded to sign my t-shirt before handing over a small token of appreciation – a limited edition lanyard pin made just for the event. He continued down the aisle, and I gathered my senses. One of the world’s most famous billionaires just shook my hand, gave me a warm smile and signed my t-shirt! I felt like a teenager in a rock concert at that moment.
Coffee, Tea or me? That’s the tagline for this special flight. Through the curtains I was peeping through, Tony and Branson were seated comfortably in the premium seats, chatting and laughing. Both held a cuppa in their hand, and the aromatic fragrance of coffee wafted over. I spotted Tony’s t-shirt earlier that wrote “Richard served me T&Co coffee”, so I deduced that this must be the gourmet coffee the both were enjoying during their much-deserved rest. I closed the curtains and returned to my seat, deciding to not disturb that poignant moment between two old friends.
The six hour flight passed quickly, and soon, a raspy voice could be heard over the intercom. “It was most enjoyable for me to be serving all of you onboard – all for a good cause. Thank you for making my day, and I really don’t think I’ll be able to continue this job anymore since I spilled drinks all over my new boss *chuckle*”. Never have I heard a funnier inflight announcement than this.
Back on ground in LCC Terminal, Tony Fernandes announced jokingly that he will be firing his brand new recruit. Laughter rang across the hall as members of the media and guests stood to listen to the duo’s funny parting speech, the same thought probably crossing through our heads “when will we ever get to see this again?” Together, they raised over AUD200,000 for the Starlight Children’s Foundation – an incredible feat indeed! My weekend with both equally sporting and funny millionaires as entertainment was truly one of a kind, and one that I’ll definitely cherish for the rest of my life. I’m never, ever going to wash that hand ever again.
*Update: This journalist has reportedly washed her hands two hours upon landing in LCC Terminal, Kuala Lumpur. Her overly-enthusiastic drooling dog was to blame.
Find out what Sir Richard has to say about his experience in this exclusive clip: