Once a Royal Navy officer with the desire to become a full-time helicopter pilot, Richard Myerscough has always been a friend of the skies. Now, as the new GM of Virgin Atlantic for Japan and Korea, he is using his extensive business experience to increase the very successful airline’s role in Japanese travel. A commercial pilot’s license holder who has previously worked for Virgin in South Africa and Nigeria, Myerscough has truly become the embodiment of his travel-oriented position.

How long have you been in Japan?

Just five months, but it already feels much longer (in a good way). We arrived on January 13, 2010.

What are the Japan-specific challenges your business faces?

As with most markets, and most industries, we are at last seeing some grass roots of recovery.  That said, Japan does seem to be having its fair share of challenges during this recovery phase, all of which add uncertainty to the forward indicators. All in all though, the future signals are good, with some real rays of optimism forming. I feel the future is looking much better than this time last year.

Japan is a fiercely competitive market, with lots of capacity and competition between Japan and Europe. The relatively recent decision by the Japanese government to liberalize the aviation sector comes with both opportunity and challenge. There are some interesting opportunities coming up in Japan, with the expansion of the airports, proposed liberalization on fare filing, and with codeshare partnerships (such as the one between ourselves and ANA), so it will be very interesting to see how these all take shape.

Beyond the revenue value of the market, Japan has also been hugely valuable over the years when it comes to assessing our brand, product and service. Due to the Japanese market being so cutting-edge, the Japanese traveler rightly expects very high standards—so if we can meet or better those, we know we are on the right track.

“You have to passionately believe in what you do if you want to succeed.”

What sets your company apart from its competitors?

We pride ourselves on having a product and service that leads the industry. We continue to innovate and provide our customers with ‘firsts.’ We were the first to offer on-demand and individual in-flight entertainment TVs in all cabins, we were the first to launch a premium economy cabin between business class and economy, and in 2003 we launched the most revolutionary ‘upper class suite,’ which is the longest and most comfortable flat bed and seat in the airline industry; ultimately becoming a benchmark for our industry.

That said we would be nothing without our people. The way Virgin Atlantic is structured and managed gives you, as an employee, a very strong sense of belonging and sense of being part of a much bigger ‘family.’ Regardless of where I am in the world, or what part of Virgin I’m interacting with, there is always a mutual understanding of what it is to work for Virgin.

What kind of advice would you give to aspiring professionals?

I am a strong believer in the simple fact that you have to passionately believe in what you do if you want to succeed. If you have no affinity or passion for the company, brand or product you work with, I believe it is vastly harder to motivate yourself to go that extra mile. In truth, I have seen a vast array of industries, from my previous military and consulting days, and commonly the most productive teams were the ones that had a common goal, which they all believed in. So in short, working for a company or brand you trust, value and empathize with is going to be a much more mutually beneficial than just following a specific salary or perceived ‘power brand’ to fill your CV.

What do you do in your spare time?

My wife and I have just had our first child, so my spare time has been cancelled for the next 18 years! I used to enjoy sports—mainly rugby (viewing and participating), flying, traveling and generally seeing as much of the world as I can fit into my diary, with my wife. As for the future, now that baby Rylan has arrived, I am yet to see how that will pan out. We just hope that he will simply make doing all of the above that bit more enjoyable!