| The 555-seat super jumbo Airbus A380 in Toulouse, southern France. (Reuters)
London, Jan. 18: An Indian woman who works for Virgin Atlantic Airways as a stewardess expressed surprise today at being told the airline's staff were under instructions not to disturb couples who lock themselves in a lavatory with the intention of joining the 'mile high club'.
This remarkable piece of news was given by Sir Richard Branson, chairman of Virgin, at today's gala unveiling of the Airbus 380, the world's biggest airliner, in Toulouse in southern France.
Although nearly 5,000 of the world's top airline executives were present, along with French President Jacques Chirac, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, Prime Minister Tony Blair and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, it was Branson who stole the headlines.
After a long, spectacular floor show presentation, a group of children pulled a giant white cord and screens came down to reveal the massive plane capable of carrying 555 passengers ' and even up to 800 if they are packed in like sardines.
The guests burst into applause as they saw the huge aircraft with its 260ft- wingspan.
Branson said he would seat only 500, thereby leaving him more room for larger stand-up bars than on current Virgin flights, a beauty parlour, a gaming area and up to 35 double bedrooms.
From 2008 onwards, he would fly to Orlando, New York, Los Angeles, Tokyo, Johannesburg, Sydney ' and it is known India is also on his radar.
The Virgin A380 double beds would provide privacy for passengers and 'lots of room to innovate'. The extra space would enable couples to join the mile high club and get intimate in the skies, added Branson.
He said: 'You can do it on a cruise ship, you can do it at home, why can't you do it in the air' If you are on honeymoon and as long as you are not disturbing other passengers, why not'
Branson said his staff have a policy of not banging on lavatory doors if it is suspected that a couple are getting amorous on the other side.
However, the Indian airhostess, a young woman of strict morals, told The Telegraph: 'I don't and I won't (bang on the doors). We already have flat beds and I have heard we will soon have double beds on our flights. But I have not been given any instructions about not disturbing couples who lock themselves in.'
Although Air-India isn't ordering the A380 ' not yet anyway ' India's national carrier is also looking to see how it can make the Maharaja service more luxurious.
'Indian hospitality is unmatched,' said a source. 'We serve full meals even on short haul flights.'
Airline experts today said they were sceptical whether Branson would really take up valuable space putting in casinos and double bedrooms on flights when he could be carrying fare-paying passengers.
A British Airways spokesman said: 'We were the first to put in flat beds. Other airlines had to catch up. We have been doing trials with email service from on board, and also intend improving the service at the airport so it is less 'hassly' for passengers and becomes more of a total experience.'
Airbus has so far taken 149 firm orders for the aircraft and believes China will soon join the list of new customers, along with Singapore Airlines, Qantas and Emirates. Each super jumbo costs $260 million
Among those waxing lyrical was Blair, who remarked: 'This is the most exciting new aircraft in the world.'