Five Miles Up with … Sir Richard Branson
five miles up
When requesting an interview with Sir Richard Branson, we were delighted by his suggestion – why not conduct it five miles up? We joined the Virgin Atlantic founder at London’s Heathrow Airport for the inaugural flight of Little Red, Virgin’s first short-haul domestic arm to Edinburgh, Scotland (it also flies to Manchester and Aberdeen). What we learned during the flight? As souvenirs from vacations go, one of Branson’s was particularly impressive – an airline. With that in mind, where would he like to travel next? Even higher. The best news – he’s taking us with him.
What’s something you never forget to pack in your suitcase?
My notebook, which I think I forgot and put in the hold, and my personal assistant, Helen. I can’t do without a notebook. So many ideas come to me in a day and if I don’t write them down I’ll forget them. It’s the only way I can keep myself organized. I like to make notes if I see something special. When my kids were smaller and said something fun, I’d write it down. Like my daughter, as she was sitting next to me at 9 years old, she told me, “Daddy, I know what sex is, and since I have a younger brother, I know that you and mummy have done it twice.”
Carry-on or check-in?
I’m a carry-on sort of person, but I have to remember to leave those big things they keep stealing off me as I come through security behind. I like to move quickly. I don’t like to wait for my bags.
Window or aisle?
As you may have heard, we’re trying to put glass bottoms on our planes, so if you’re sitting on the aisle, you can actually have as good a view as sitting at the window. I like the window so I can get a good view of the world.
You have one trip left in your lifetime, where will it be?
Are you going alone, or can we come with you?
You can come with me to space from the end of this year. Virgin Galactic is almost there. It’s taken us slightly longer than we’d hoped to get here. The spaceport is finished. The mother ship is finished. The spaceship’s finished. In two week’s time I go to the Mojave Desert for the first rocket test in the air, and then within months we’ll be up and testing in space. It’s all about to happen; it’s very exciting.
What do you consider the perfect vacation?
I’m very lucky. I sort of live in the place that I also like to go on vacation to -- Necker Island, a beautiful (British Virgin) island in the Caribbean. We also share it with other people, so I get to meet an awful lot of people as they rent or come and stay on the island. We don’t just rent it exclusively. We have weeks where couples can come. People have an absolute blast there. Everybody gets to know each other. It’s not like a hotel where everybody sits at separate tables and after the first years of married life don’t know what the hell they’re going to talk to each other about. Everybody mixes and has a good time.
Necker is great, but we’ve also created a number of lovely little places around the world, which are our homes, which we share. We have the beautiful Ulusaba Private Game Reserve (in South Africa’s Subi Sand Reserve). We have lovely places outside Morocco’s Atlas Mountains, Kasbah Tamadot (in Asni), and a ski lodge in Verbier, Switzerland, where I’ve just come from, The Lodge. I love traveling. We try to create places for people to go to where we can protect the environment.