Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson and Virgin America President and CEO David Cush helped inaugurate the airline’s service to Palm Springs International Airport on Dec. 15. Branson welcomed passengers at the San Francisco International Airport gate and then flew with them aboard an Airbus A320 outfitted with the airline company’s signature mood lighting, leather seats, and in-flight entertainment system.
Shortly before the plane landed, Palm Springs skies turned uncharacteristically gray and a cold wind blew across the tarmac where city council members and local business leaders gathered to welcome the billionaire adventurer and celebrate the seasonal, nonstop flights from San Francisco that continue to New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport.
Palm Springs Mayor Steve Pougnet joined Branson on the flight and on the podium after they deplaned and walked down a red carpet. Before stepping up to the microphone, Branson removed his jacket and placed it around the shoulders of a flight attendant. When he joked that he had come to Palm Springs “under false pretenses” since the mayor had assured him the city basked under sunny skies, Pougnet removed his own jacket (a wise political move and one that delighted Branson and the crowd).
Palm Springs is Virgin America’s 16th market since the California-based company was launched in 2007.
Palm Springs International Airport
Photography by Gregg Felsen