July 1991. Jason Donovan was number 1 in the singles chart, houses around London cost about £80k and the first internet web browser was being launched. In the same month we started operating from Heathrow for the very first time. This was a big moment for us. Up until then we’d been growing fast and were flying our long haul routes to JFK, Los Angeles and Tokyo from Gatwick. After years of lobbying we were finally allowed to paint Heathrow red. It was the start of a beautiful relationship.
Back then we didn’t have the marketing budgets to compete with the big guys so these were the heady days of Richard and his famous publicity stunts. For the Heathrow launch we took over the British Airways Concorde on the roundabout outside the airport (now occupied by an Emirates A380). Months of planning included surreptitiously measuring the tailfin and making a cloth cover for it. There was subterfuge in the night and finally Richard dressed as a pirate. Oh, and legend has it a very tricky conversation with the Heathrow police. Luckily BA took it all in good humour.
Sarah Daniels, seen in this photo standing next to Richard, can still be found at Heathrow and is now our Head of Customer Service, LHR. She remembers that day well and twenty five years later, in her own words, is “still living the dream”. And incredibly proud of our customer service at Heathrow.
The only thing that hasn’t changed since then?
We understand that Richard still dresses as a pirate once in a while.
We’re not the only ones with an anniversary at Heathrow right now – the airport itself is celebrating its 70th birthday. We absolutely love their ‘stories‘ page where you can share your memories of this fascinating and historic airport. Happy Birthday Heathrow from everyone at Virgin Atlantic.