'Up In The Air: Virgin Atlantic' TV Review: A First-Class Display Of Enthusiasm From Everyone, Including Richard Branson

Well, it was never going to be a hatchet job, with Virgin Atlantic opening its doors to the cameras for unprecedented access as it celebrates its 30th year with a bunch of bonnie rookie cabin crew recruits, a big party and a brand new aeroplane arriving on the tarmac.

Richard Branson may not run the company himself any more, but the sight of his arrival for the festivities - rockstar grin, the inevitable pilot's cap and kisses for the loyallest of colleagues - was a quick reminder of just how this maverick airline has continued to punch above its weight for three decades. Can they really have only 38 planes in their fleet? What a testament to branding!

Richard Branson's grin is intact, but Virgin has some serious business questions to answer, just not in this programme

Meanwhile, the new recruits - 158 chosen from a staggering 2,000 applicants in 48 hours - battled to learn life-saving skills, construct a raft and get their hair in the right-sized mushroom. 58-year-old grandmother Katrine was following her life dream and, while she's no Jeremy Spake, was obviously a game gift for the camera crew.

Katrine is following her dream of becoming cabin crew, and - guess what - she makes it!

More strangely compelling were the seats and loos being designed over at Boeing, ready for the fleet's brand new flagship, the Dreamliner, all under the watchful eye of designer Nick. "It's Expresso, not brown," he patiently explained of the seat coverings. "That speaks quality," he squeaked, as he took delight in the slow-descending toilet lid. And that, we learned, is why one first class seat costs more than £100,000 to build. I could watch this stuff for hours.

Designer Nick takes particular delight in the mood lighting of a toilet

Of course, unsaid between all these PR-friendly vignettes is the struggle between maintaining this kind of unique luxury, making Virgin passengers feel special and keeping the airline's coffers firmly in the black, a balancing act that has nearly toppled over in recent years. I'm hoping we'll get a bit more of that in the next two episodes, now we've firmly established that "it's great coming to work" and "oh my god, the pilots look so hot". Even the ever-smiling Richard B is beginning to wonder aloud, "We lost quite a lot of money, where's it gone?"

'Virgin Atlantic: Up in the Air' is available on ITV Player, and continues next week.

Popular in the Community