Page last updated at 11:53 GMT, Friday, 4 April 2008 12:53 UK

Virgin may scrap care in the air

Sir Richard Branson
Sir Richard Branson's airline is considering its in-flight options

Virgin Atlantic has summoned its entire crew of in-flight beauty therapists to a meeting next week, amid speculation that the service could be axed.

The airline said the meeting was part of a regular review of its Upper Class services and products and refused to comment on the rumours.

Sir Richard Branson's firm employs 280 beauty therapists who offer a range of treatments to business class fliers.

Airlines worldwide are being forced to make cuts because of high fuel costs.

Massages under threat

The credit crunch has also raised fears that airlines will not be able to maintain their margins as high mortgage and other borrowing costs, together with rising food and energy bills, leave people less able to afford international travel.

A Virgin Atlantic spokesperson said: "We are calling our inflight beauty therapists to speak to them as part of a review of the Upper Class products and services we offer."

Some of the treatments that Virgin's executive passengers can enjoy are the Back in the Clouds upper back massage and the Handsome Hands Manicure, billed as a "real pick-me-up for the nails".

The service, which is billed as "first class at business-class prices", currently includes a chauffeur-driven car to the airport, a flexible menu and access to luxury waiting lounges.

Virgin Atlantic launched its in-flight beauty offering in 1990, in a bid to differentiate itself from its bigger rival British Airways and attract business customers.

Competition for this market is likely to intensify in the wake of the "open skies" agreement between the US and the European Union, which has made it easier for certain airlines to fly from London's Heathrow to US destinations.

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