Before carving out a lofty career at Virgin Atlantic Airlines, Jane Breeden worked in a salon in England where she did manicures and performed other services such as massage therapy. One of her clients was the wife of Richard Branson, Virgin Atlantic’s CEO. While doing Mrs. Branson’s nails, Breeden came up with an idea to give manicures to passengers during long intercontinental flights. Mrs. Branson put the idea to her husband, who suggested Breeden make an appointment to discuss it with him.

Over a period of eight months he canceled several times, but Breeden was persistent. In January of 1990, she finally met Branson and gave him a manicure treatment that he obviously enjoyed. A month later, he sent her on her first flight to New York. Six clients wrote to Branson complimenting her work. That May, Virgin Touch was launched and Breeden started her new career as resident inflight therapist.

Some of the celebrities she had the pleasure of meeting and treating on various flights were Jane Seymour, Jacqueline Bisset, Phil Collins, David Hasselhoff, and members of the Grateful Dead. Emanuel (who designed Princess Di’s wedding dress) designed her all-white uniform. At least a few passengers fell asleep on her shoulder as she treated them and awoke to her vision in white and said, “I must have died and gone to heaven.”

On one late-night flight, she realized that she was treating someone for the second time that night. He said, “I just liked it so much I swapped with another chap and didn’t think you’d notice in the dim light.”

Another satisfied client asked the captain to go around the airport one more time so he could get his complete treatment before landing.

Because polish is flammable, Breeden instead uses white pencil for a French look, buffs the nails to a shine, and massages the arms of passengers. The treatments were — and still are — complimentary.

In 1993, Breeden expanded the menu to include preflight waxing and hydrotherapy, and introduced creams to prevent dehydration and more extensive massages for stress.

For several years, Breeden was Virgin Atlantic’s only inflight manicurist and passengers would specifically request a “Jane Flight.” The company finally increased its staff to two therapists, then to seven. Today, Breeden is manager of Virgin Touch, supervising about 190 inflight and preboard therapists.

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, Click here.

Read more about