20 Years of flying to South Africa

By: Dave Gunner

November 7, 2016

Richard arrives at Jo'berg airport to begin the celebrations

South Africa and its people hold a very special place in our hearts and this year we celebrate 20 years of flying to Johannesberg. We have loved visiting this diverse and beautiful country over the past two decades. We have so many special memories and hope that we have helped create just as many for our customers.

Richard has a particularly close affinity to South Africa, having set up the Elders there with Nelson Mandela, started the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship and created the very special Ulusaba private game lodge in the western sector of the Sabi Sand Reserve close to the Kruger National Park.  .

Our team in South Africa have been celebrating this important milestone with a 20-day long celebration across the country where they surprised customers with gifts and even flights to London.

Richard cuts the cake with some of our Cabin Crew and Jo'berg people.

The celebration culminated with Richard boarding a very special birthday flight from Johannesburg to London. He arrived at the airport with much fun and fanfare in a union jack branded MINI, waving at surprised passengers as they boarded the flight to London. Once on-board the aptly named ‘Birthday Girl’ – the first Boeing 787-9 in our fleet – Richard served drinks to all customers and then led the entire plane with some traditional birthday party games from ‘pass-the-parcel’ to lucky draws, all at 38,000ft.

“Once you get the dust of Africa on your boots, you will never be able to kick it off.”  – African proverb

Just before taking off Richard had this to say: “Time really does fly when you’re having fun! Twenty years ago we took a leap of faith by operating our first flight into Africa – we didn’t know if people would choose to fly with us but we believed that offering competitive fares between Johannesburg and London was essential. South Africa welcomed us with open arms, and the route quickly became one of the most popular on our network.

“South Africa has always held a place in my heart and I’m so pleased that millions of our customers have explored this beautiful country with Virgin Atlantic, and we look forward to welcoming millions more over the next twenty years.”

You can read more about Richard’s love of South Africa on a blog he wrote in 2014 here. Here’s to many more years of flying to South Africa and to many more great memories.

The team in South Africa have also been looking at the numbers from 20 years of flying and produced this infographic.

Jo'berg Infographic



Dave Gunner

Dave Gunner

I love telling the story of our people, our planes, our places and our planet through Ruby Blog.

Categories: Our Experience