Confront Your Frustrations: Upending the Airline Business

Richard Branson

Lesson time 08:41 min

Richard explores how his frustrations with airline service became the spark for Virgin Atlantic, and how he quickly made it a reality. He also shares business strategies such as organizing ideas into manageable lists that fuel innovations.

Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars

Topics include: Richard explores the frustrations with airline service that served as the spark of Virgin Atlantic, and how he quickly turned that into a reality. Learn how to funnel your frustrations into valuable businesses by organizing your ideas into manageable lists that springboard innovations, and use your team to analyze the product in motion and ensure the absolute best product.


[MUSIC PLAYING] RICHARD BRANSON: Many years ago, the airline industry was dire. Go back 40 years, it was absolutely awful. You were treated like cattle when you were herded onto a plane. There was one time when I was frustrated about the service that I was being offered by American Airlines. And I thought, screw it. Let's start an airline. The best ideas come out of frustration. [MUSIC PLAYING] I was trying to get from Puerto Rico to the Virgin Islands one night, and in a very sort of typical way, the American Airlines decided they didn't have enough passengers. They just cancel the flight. And I had a girlfriend waiting for me in the BVI. So I was determined to get there. I'd been away for three weeks. I went to the back of the airport. I borrowed a blackboard, and I wrote, Virgin Airlines, $39 one-way to the BVI. And went to all the people who got bumped, filled up my first plane, hired the plane, and arrived in the BVI. [MUSIC PLAYING] The next day, I dialed directory enquiries, got the telephone number of Boeing, rang Boeing, and said, can I talk to your sales department? Got through to the sales department and said, do you have any second hand 747 for sale? They said, you know, what company are you from? I said, Virgin. We've got the Rolling Stones. We've got Janet Jackson. Anyway, the guy was good enough to not put the phone down on me, to come and see me. He did tell me that he highly recommended that we didn't call the company Virgin because people would assume the company, the airline wouldn't go the whole way. We struck a deal whereby we got us our first 747 from him. NARRATOR: A houseboat in London's Little Venice is an unlikely spot to find an aviation pioneer, but this is the head office of the world's newest airline. Richard Branson, the pop millionaire who flew Boy George and the Sex Pistols to stardom, is about to take off with his latest venture, cheap transatlantic flights. - I may be horribly wrong, and I might have made a dreadful mistake, but unless we try, we definitely won't have succeeded. So we might as well have a try. NARRATOR: And so, with the familiar show business glitter, Virgin's maiden flight got underway. [MUSIC PLAYING] RICHARD BRANSON: We then created this magical airline. So I think what I learned from that was, first of all, look to start businesses out of frustration. - I hope British Airways are watching this. They could learn a lesson or two. RICHARD BRANSON: Secondly, try to dive in and be cheeky and resolve the problem there and then, which I did by hiring the plane. Thirdly, don't just say, oh, dammit, I'm fed up with this. I can start my own airline. But do pick up the phone and cheekily see if you can start an airline. Get a plane. And then, once you've got the plane, make sure that you create the absolute best airline in the world. [MUSIC PLAYING] I'm somebody that makes big lists. You know, if I'm ...

About the Instructor

Sometimes, making it big is all about following the fun. Ask Richard Branson. The founder of the Virgin Group built a business empire by solving the problems that fascinated him, disrupting every industry he touched, and pursuing dreams that seemed impossible. The adventure took him from humble beginnings to the stars. Learn how you, too, can find ideas so good they’re scary, lean into your fear, and achieve liftoff.

Featured Masterclass Instructor

Richard Branson

Entrepreneur Richard Branson teaches you how to turn your wildest dreams into successful businesses—and have fun doing it.

Explore the Class
Sign Up