Coffee, tea...or me - the Virgin boss?

By Ven Sreenivasan

He's not only going to have to dress for the part; he'll also have to look the part.

Virgin group boss Richard Branson will have his legs shaved before he gets dressed in an AirAsia air stewardess outfit and boards a London- Kuala Lumpur AirAsia X charity flight on May 1.

Mr Branson's stunt is the result of a Formula One (F1) wager he lost to AirAsia CEO Tony Fernandes. His Virgin Racing team came in last in the 2010 F1 season, behind Mr Fernandes's Lotus Racing team in 10th place.

The bet was in no way fuelled by animosity, and the aviation moguls are friends. Mr Branson has a small interest in Mr Fernandes's privately owned long-haul budget carrier AirAsia X, which plies the London-KL route.

As a result, he will be one of the dozen or so AirAsia 'gals' on a charity flight where guests will pay £4,500 (S$9,130) for a round trip, while flight-and-accommodation packages start at £5,000 for single accommodation and £5,200 for twin-sharing.

And Mr Branson's hair does not come for free either.

Anyone wanting the pleasure of shaving the Virgin boss's legs at London's Stansted Airport prior to departure will have to cough up a cool £400,000 for the honour. Mr Fernandes had original rights to the shearing job, but agreed to hand the shaver to the highest bidder - all in the name of charity.

Bidders must have a confirmed ticket for the charity flight or to the Charity Evening. Bidding will take place at the pre-departure event at Stansted. The successful bidder will be invited to shave Mr Branson once he's unveiled as an AirAsia flight attendant, in front of the world's media and guests.

'As an AirAsia flight attendant, Richard would have to comply with our grooming standards, and that includes shaving his legs,' Mr Fernandes declared.

'Rather than shave him myself, Richard and I thought we could have a bit of fun, engage with our guests and raise more money for charity if we opened up the opportunity to the highest bidder. It's the first time we've both agreed on anything, so that in itself is worth the price of the opening bid.'

This article was first published in The Business Times.