Although I didn’t watch a lick of the Oscars, I’m feeling the need to bestow a metaphorical statuette upon a company most wonderful, Virgin America.
I fly Virgin whenever I can, and this week I flew from Florida to San Francisco. Through various odd and perplexing gestures of genuine affection from Virgin staffers, I got the sense that they actually give a shit about me as a customer. To anyone who’s flown frequently in the past decade, that’s simply incredible.
A few minutes before boarding began, the captain came out to greet we weary, waiting travelers. He was part Sully Sullenberger, part P.T. Barnum. People were visibly shocked at his geniality and gregariousness. It was corny, and it worked. People smiled, in an airport. I’m inspired to treat people better because of the way this business treated me and its employees.
Following the captain’s social visits, dozens of San Francisco-bound limousine liberals took advantage of not being in SF or NYC and used iPhones to actually make calls. Loved ones were alerted that some bizarre guy who works for Virgin America was actually being nice. Sophisticated, incredulous city folk seemed concerned that the guy flying our plane might have a screw loose.
The desire for convenience and comfort underpins the motivation to succeed. We all just want a better life. It’s why we work hard, pursue education, and invest for the future. Virgin makes flying as enjoyable as it can be and gives every passenger a little taste of the good life. It is a brand that travelers want to associate with. It’s high quality and cheap.
I hope it doesn’t cost substantially more to hire a pilot who’s really, really nice—Virgin needs to get profitable this year and expand, for the good of itinerant humanity.
It’s no small irony that one of my in-flight movie selections was Michael Moore’s “Capitalism: A Love Story”, which featured saccharine portraits of the pure evil that is capitalism. One such vignette portrayed underpaid pilots who killed people in an air crash, which was apparently caused by the system of capitalism itself, as opposed to bad actors at regional airlines and ineffectual government regulation.
At risk of doing a broken-record Larry Kudlow act, my flight reminded me that capitalism enables and empowers entrepreneurs to solve problems and create better mousetraps for the advancement of society. Pilots don’t like working for crappy, poorly run airlines, and customers don’t like flying with them. Enter Richard Branson, a true American hero. Who happens to be British.
Contrary to Mr. Moore’s assertions, democracy is not a solution to capitalism. They are complementary organizational structures that give birth to fine companies like Virgin America, which in turn gives me the ability to be comfortable, well-fed, and entertained on an airplane.
Is there any higher social good?