Richard Branson Surprises Departing Virgin Atlantic Employee

When a former Virgin Atlantic employee was about to take her last flight with the carrier, she was unexpectedly bumped up from economy to Upper Class, where she was greeted by the boss himself. The woman was thrilled about the upgrade and the encounter, honoring a near-twenty year-long career with the airline.

Virgin Atlantic, Airbus A350, The Booth
Not all Virgin Atlantic employees get to ride up front with the boss, but that is what happened to content specialist Caron Streeter when she found herself on the same flight as Richard Branson. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

We all appreciate some form of acknowledgment when leaving a company we have been with for nearly 20 years. However, not everyone expects a nine-hour upgraded flight and a one-on-one with the company’s boss. Meanwhile, that is precisely what happened to Caron Streeter, a content specialist with Virgin Atlantic.

Streeter says she was waiting to board her last ever staff concessions flight in economy. Then there was a ‘magic beep’ at the gate, upgrading her to seat 1G in Virgin’s premium Upper Class cabin. However, the surprises did not end there as her seat neighbor turned out to be none other than charismatic businessman turned airline founder Richard Branson.

The now-former Virgin employee was delighted with the upgrade – and the company. She shared the moment on her social media, prompting other users to share quotes by Branson on employee satisfaction or their own stories of how their last day unfolded when ending their employment with other companies.

It seems Branson’s care for employees extends to those no longer officially with the company. And considering the media is writing about it, Streeter’s experience does make for favorable publicity. It also makes her a proud ambassador for the brand even when moving on in her career.

“It should go without saying, if the person who works at your company is 100 percent proud of the brand and you give them the tools to do a good job, and they are treated well, they’re going to be happy,” Branson told Inc. in an interview a few years back.

Branson spaceship
Richard Branson is famous for advocating that companies look after their employees. Photo: Getty Images

What’s next for Caron?

Simple Flying spoke with Caron, before COVID hit Virgin Atlantic had supported her in new found passion/career path of HR and paid for her study for her CIPD qualification. When COVID hit it was evident given the volume of redundancies that moving into HR at Virgin would not be an option for the foreseeable future.

So whilst Caron secured a job she opted to take voluntary redundancy to save someone else’s job and pursue her HR career. She is now fully qualified and working in HR elsewhere – all thanks to Virgin Atlantic. Maybe one day she will get the chance to return to HR at Virgin Atlantic as she will always be #redonthe inside.

A different kind of surprise

Branson famously startled another Virgin Atlantic employee back in 2016. However, rather than a complimentary upgrade, the surprise was something more of a rude awakening. Branson decided to pay an unannounced visit to the airline’s airport office. When he walked in, he found a young man sleeping on one of the characteristically red sofas.

Branson woke the man, who was apparently on standby, up – but not after taking a photo for posterity’s sake. The man must have thought he was still dreaming because he reportedly went right back to sleep.

Richard Branson Surprises Departing Virgin Atlantic Employee
Virgin Atlantic’s Upper Class features fully lie-flat seats. Photo: Virgin Atlantic

On a less cheerful note

Virgin Atlantic did have to let go of nearly half of its staff as a result of the coronavirus crisis. From 10,000 employees at the start of 2020, it was down to about 5,000 at the beginning of 2021. The airline has begun some rehiring but will not take any new pilots or cabin crew members not fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

What is the nicest thing your boss has ever done for you? Leave a comment below and share your story.