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Today I read an article on the January 3rd, 2011 issue of Bloomberg Businessweek regarding Virgin America, the product of billionaire entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson.  In November, the airline announced a profit of $7.5 million for the second quarter.  Although it is the first quarterly profit since it’s founding in 2004, the airline shows much promise.  Since its inception it has been plagued by an antiquated US law preventing majority ownership of foreign investors of US airlines and aggressive and oftencollusionary practices against the airline by its competitors.

However, even with the opposition Virgin Airlines shows promise because it has a clear vision.  This vision is stated by its “Don’t Fly Like Cattle” tagline.  That is, they have a different vision of what flying should be.  They believe flying should be a good experience, and flyers should be treated like customers instead of nuisances.

This wasn’t the first time I’d heard about this airline.  Gary Zabranski, a producer of The Tasting Room with Tom Leykis, hailed the airline after flying Virgin American from LA to NY and American Airlines on the way back.  “Virgin America knows how it’s done,” Gary said as he explained that Virgin provides a television screen on every seat that includes a menu of items from which to order in addition to fast courteous service.  “I only saw the flight attendants once, when they gave me peanuts, on American Airlines,” he complained.

Customer service in flights?  What a novel concept.  I’m being sarcastic, but in today’s travel environment isn’t it refreshing that someone wants to make it a pleasant experience?  Virgin America has been awarded Condé Nast Traveler and Zagat awards the last three years for their excellent customer service. Their Airbus A319 and A320 planes are newer and more comfortable, they have upgraded lighting, they offer free Wi-Fi, and have glass walls between seating classes to make the planes feel less claustrophobic.

This airline is the vision of Sir Richard Branson.  He saw a need and decided that he could make a profit by fulfilling it.  That is the kind of leader I want to be.  I want to be able to inspire others with a vibrant vision and a passion for customer service.  Tell me, what kind of leader do you want to be?

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