When Virgin airlines launched their domestic service in Australia, they invited dozens of media to attend a celebrity mystery flight from Brisbane Airport.
The launch was hosted by Richard Branson on the morning of Sunday 9th July 2000. He announced that the airline would be called Virgin Blue and would challenge other domestic airlines — Ansett and Qantas.
Branson told his new employees and media that the Australian slang word used to describe a redhead, ‘blue’, would be used in the name of their airline’s operation in Australia.
At the time, I was working for Brisbane radio station B105, and I was asked to join other media for the historic launch flight.
After Richard Branson sprayed champagne over some of his new employees, we flew out of Brisbane on board a Boeing 737–400, called ‘Blue Belle.’ Once in the air, Branson formerly introduced himself to everyone and told us that the mystery flight would be landing at Maroochydore for lunch at a Sunshine Coast homestead.
The flight to the Sunshine Coast was short, but fun. Richard Branson accepted my invitation to interview guests for our breakfast radio show, the B105 Morning Crew.
Branson jumped onto the plane’s intercom to announce he was sacking the pilot for a hard landing at Maroochydore. 7NEWS reporter Peter Doherty had a tight news deadline, and he departed our Sunshine Coast ‘party’ early — catching a lift home to Mt Coot-tha in the 9 News helicopter.
The following day, the interviews that Richard Branson recorded on board his plane were aired on Brisbane radio station B105 — but the interview with the Morning Crew didn’t go as well as I expected — we had some technical difficulties in our new studio.
About 14 months after the launch, Ansett airlines collapsed. Virgin Blue quickly became Australia’s #2 airline. The airline changed its name to Virgin Australia 11 years later. In April 2020, as the coronavirus pandemic hit, the company was put into voluntary administration.