Virgin Atlantic: Up in the Air, ITV - TV review: Branson's Dreamliner loos cost a fortune but the workers aren't living the high life

Branson seems to inspire an adoration somewhere between what Directioners feel for Harry Styles and what North Koreans feel for Kim Jong-un.

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The Independent Culture

These days every major British brand needs its own dedicated corporate profile documentary. Iceland supermarkets, British Airways and department store Liberty have all previously opened up their staff rooms and stock cupboards to curious cameras crews, so why shouldn't Richard Branson's airline get in on the free advertising action? Virgin Atlantic: Up in the Air is hardly a warts-and-all exposé, but just because it comes head office-approved doesn't mean it has to be boring.

How do Virgin staff really feel about their bearded boss and figurehead you wonder? According to this first episode of three, Branson inspires an adoration somewhere between what Directioners feel for Harry Styles and what North Koreans feel for Kim Jong-un.

So imagine the excitement when the man himself turned up at Virgin Atlantic HQ for the first time in three years and dished out congratulatory kisses to some of the longest-serving staff members. The airline may have lost £51m last year, but morale is still high and Branson is still grinning: "Fortunately, I've been in the airline business long enough to know that you have tough years and good years."

Fortunately for us, just as Branson's dazzling star power threatened to cause irreversible retinal damage, our attention was diverted to some of his ordinary employees. Tom in the warehouse hasn't yet let slip any cutting or sardonic insights into Virgin's corporate culture, but the twinkle in his eye suggest he may do at any moment.

In the meantime there was eye candy aplenty at the recruitment day for new cabin crew or "trolley dollies", as they proudly refer to themselves. Oh, the red lipstick! The chiffon scarves! The intricate updos! The glamour! Despite starting salaries of just £12,500 a year, the jet-setting life clearly hasn't lost its old-school glitz.

No doubt Virgin staff will start asking for pay rises when they find out how much the company is spending on the new 787 Dreamliners. It's design manager Nik's job to splash that cash on $200,000 "soft-close" lid toilets and $100,000 seats, and it's the documentary director's job to make Nik look silly by asking why the "espresso" leather fittings could just be called "brown"? "Because that wouldn't be Virgin", apparently.

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