Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Oh Mr Branson!

Below is a copy of the letter of complaint to Richard Branson at Virgin Atlantic. It's been going the rounds and was published in The Telegraph as Is this the best complaint letter ever?

Well I don’t think it is because I have a book called The Complainer’s Guide to Getting Even and this letter doesn’t even come close to some of the letters in there. It could be the best letter of complaint about an airline. It’s quite funny, I like the way he write and addresses Richard Branson as Richard as though he knew him. So if you haven't already seen it, read on!

Dear Mr Branson

REF: Mumbai to Heathrow 7th December 2008

I love the Virgin brand, I really do which is why I continue to use it despite a series of unfortunate incidents over the last few years. This latest incident takes the biscuit.

Ironically, by the end of the flight I would have gladly paid over a thousand rupees for a single biscuit following the culinary journey of hell I was subjected to at the hands of your corporation. Look at this Richard. Just look at it:

I imagine the same questions are racing through your brilliant mind as were racing through mine on that fateful day. What is this? Why have I been given it? What have I done to deserve this? And, which one is the starter, which one is the desert?

You don't get to a position like yours Richard with anything less than a generous sprinkling of observational power so I KNOW you will have spotted the tomato next to the two yellow shafts of sponge on the left. Yes, it's next to the sponge shaft without the green paste. That's got to be the clue hasn't it. No sane person would serve a desert with a tomato would they. Well answer me this Richard, what sort of animal would serve a desert with peas in:
I know it looks like a baaji but it's in custard Richard, custard. It must be the pudding. Well you'll be fascinated to hear that it wasn't custard. It was a sour gel with a clear oil on top. It's only redeeming feature was that it managed to be so alien to my palette that it took away the taste of the curry emanating from our miscellaneous central cuboid of beige matter. Perhaps the meal on the left might be the desert after all.

Anyway, this is all irrelevant at the moment. I was raised strictly but neatly by my parents and if they knew I had started desert before the main course, a sponge shaft would be the least of my worries. So lets peel back the tin-foil on the main dish and see what's on offer. I'll try and explain how this felt.

Imagine being a twelve year old boy Richard. Now imagine it's Christmas morning and you're sat their with your final present to open. It's a big one, and you know what it is. It's that Goodmans stereo you picked out the catalogue and wrote to Santa about. Only you open the present and it's not in there. It's your hamster Richard. It's your hamster in the box and it's not breathing. That's how I felt when I peeled back the foil and saw this:

Now I know what you're thinking. You're thinking it's more of that Baaji custard. I admit I thought the same too, but no. It's mustard Richard. MUSTARD. More mustard than any man could consume in a month. On the left we have a piece of broccoli and some peppers in a brown glue-like oil and on the right the chef had prepared some mashed potato. The potato masher had obviously broken and so it was decided the next best thing would be to pass the potatoes through the digestive tract of a bird.

Once it was regurgitated it was clearly then blended and mixed with a bit of mustard. Everybody likes a bit of mustard Richard. By now I was actually starting to feel a little hypoglycaemic. I needed a sugar hit. Luckily there was a small cookie provided. It had caught my eye earlier due to it's baffling presentation:

It appears to be in an evidence bag from the scene of a crime. A CRIME AGAINST BLOODY COOKING. Either that or some sort of back-street underground cookie, purchased off a gun-toting maniac high on his own supply of yeast. You certainly wouldn't want to be caught carrying one of these through customs. Imagine biting into a piece of brass Richard. That would be softer on the teeth than the specimen above.
I was exhausted. All I wanted to do was relax but obviously I had to sit with that mess in front of me for half an hour. I swear the sponge shafts moved at one point.
Once cleared, I decided to relax with a bit of your world-famous onboard entertainment. I switched it on:

I apologise for the quality of the photo, it's just it was incredibly hard to capture Boris Johnson's face through the flickering white lines running up and down the screen. Perhaps it would be better on another channel:

Is that Ray Liotta? A question I found myself asking over and over again throughout the gruelling half-hour I attempted to watch the film like this. After that I switched off. I'd had enough. I was the hungriest I'd been in my adult life and I had a splitting headache from squinting at a crackling screen. My only option was to simply stare at the seat in front and wait for either food, or sleep. Neither came for an incredibly long time. But when it did it surpassed my wildest expectations:

Yes! It's another crime-scene cookie. Only this time you dunk it in the white stuff. Richard.... What is that white stuff? It looked like it was going to be yoghurt. It finally dawned on me what it was after staring at it. It was a mixture between the Baaji custard and the Mustard sauce. It reminded me of my first week at university. I had overheard that you could make a drink by mixing vodka and refreshers. I lied to my new friends and told them I'd done it loads of times. When I attempted to make the drink in a big bowl it formed a cheese Richard, a cheese. That cheese looked a lot like your baaji-mustard.

So that was that Richard. I didn't eat a bloody thing. My only question is: How can you live like this? I can't imagine what dinner round your house is like, it must be like something out of a nature documentary. As I said at the start I love your brand, I really do. It's just a shame such a simple thing could bring it crashing to it's knees and begging for sustenance.

Yours Sincerely

No this wasn’t a stunt it was a genuine complaint and according to Virgin Atlantic, Richard Branson phoned Mr Beale and he was invited to help select the next range of meals they serve on board. Apparently he’s thinking about it!

The photographs and text reproduced from original and published on


  1. It's funny Winifred, but as I read it, I kept thinking it was in the voice of an Indian man, but "Oliver Beale" - Ian Beale, more like!

    I laughed at that passing the mashed potatoes through the digestive tract of a bird. Very funny! Thanks for that.


  2. Now if that is real food, it's disgusting looking. I think I would not have eaten any of it.

    Unless flying over the ocean, I would wait and eat when the plane landed.

  3. Well worth passing that one around to read. Very funny stuff. I could just hear him saying all of this! Thanks for the laughter!

  4. Oh thanks for the great giggle, that is too funny and with piccies!

  5. Hilarious! I love the crime scene cookie!

  6. I hear that Virgin will soon be flying out of John Wayne Airport in Orange County, So California. I will warn my friends there about the food. When you think about it, flying is pure torture anymore on all airlines. I had an incidence with American Airlines while trying to book a flight to Phoenix, Arizona. I tried to redeem our frequent flyer miles only to get a major run around, and the agent actually encouraged me to fly with Continental Airlines. I was given a number to call which turned out to be a phone sex number. I called the local airport for Continental's correct phone # only to be connected to Delta Airlines. The Delta agent gave me Continental's phone#. I told the Continental agent about my conversation with the American airline agents promise of a really cheap fare with Continental, he knew nothing about it. I decided to call AAA and managed to book a flight with them, and they actually found us a great fare. We will try to take our own cookies, hopefully they will not be confiscated.

  7. Sadly, this tale is so true. At least this man stood up for himself-and with a great sense of humor-sprinkled with a healthy dose of sarcasm. Nowadays when I fly, I eat before I leave home. I wouldn't eat what they pass off as food on a plane. I buy bottled water once past security and maybe a large coffee and snack. I always take something on board in case something happens and the airline holds the plane hostage on the tarmac. I spent 4 hours on the tarmac in Des Moines, Iowa once-after flying 3 hours from Houston. I had a 3 year old with me. Ugh.

  8. that's funny..........never flown Virgin

    Your questions about quilting wwere answered by Carol, Scrappy Quilter on my blog, she's a good friend of mine and a more experienced quilter, as she has quilted with sheets before.

    Gill in Canada

  9. OMIGOSH! This is a hoot. The last time we flew we were given NOTHING. We could buy soda, water, coffee, etc. or box lunches. In fear of what this man suffered, we ate nothing. Luckily, we had purchased coffee and muffins at the Dunkin' Donuts inside security.

    What a classic complaint this one is.

    Great post!!

    ~hippo hugs~

  10. I don't plan on flying anytime soon. And after reading this, probably never. What a mess of garbage that looks like. I think if allowed to, it would be best to bring your own food when you fly in this day and age!

  11. I admire his ability to get his point across...with each new culinary insult. Well done! And it accomplished what he intended it too also. It hit the bulls eye of management I'm guessing. I enjoyed reading it.

  12. Well, I didn't like it at all! I thought it was smug, and not a tiny bit racist. There are many dishes in Asia utilising legumes. He sounds like a complete up-himself pratt to me, and a self-promoter (how else would it get into the public domain?) He is after all, a high-flying advertising executive....

  13. I liked it and sometime you just have to vent. I don't care who you are.

  14. Dear Winifred ~~ Interesting post -- but at least Richard read it and phoned him so he
    achieved something. I have never flown ever anddo not wish to. Glad you enjoyed the jokes.
    The heat continues 43 C again today, You are right about the expennse of our seasons, You for heating and mine for cooling. Spring and Autumn sound good to me right now. Take care,
    my friend, Love, Merle.


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