The humiliating comedown from business tycoon to serving passengers on an Air Asia X flight is the result of a lost bet. Branson and his counterpart at Air Asia X, Tony Fernandes, are also both owners of Formula One racing teams. At the beginning of the 2010 Formula One season, Sir Richard agreed to a bet with Fernandes with regards to the respective finishing position of their two teams, with the loser committed to working a shift on the other man’s airline as a fully uniformed airhostess. Despite neither team managing to score a single point in the racing season, Fernandes’ team, Lotus, was placed above Branson’s Virgin team due to its better finishing positions throughout the season.
It has taken 2 years since the bet was won to find a window in Branson’s busy schedule for him to pay his dues, but it has now been agreed that he will don the Air Asia X red stewardess’s uniform, complete with skirt, high heels and makeup on May 12 this year, on flight D7 237 from Perth, Australia, to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Sir Richard will be expected to carry out all of the duties of an airhostess during the flight, even the most menial. However, he will do so in the knowledge that his sacrifice is at least benefiting charity. Fernandes has agreed that AUD100 from each ticket sold on the flight, and 10 percent of all in-flight and duty-free merchandise sold, will be donated to the Starlight Children’s Foundation in Australia.
Sir Richard was quoted in the Daily Mail, saying, ‘I’ve done some outrageous things in my time but this will be up there with the best of them. Tony won our bet fair and square and I’m a man of my word – so I will dress up and make a splash in the name of Starlight, a fantastic charity. I’ve just got to practice walking in high heels first.’
Tickets for the flight will cost from AUD399 one way, and will be on sale from April 8 at www.airasia.com.