Happy birthday to us: 35 years and still flying high
June 22, 2019
On June 22 1984, flight VS1 departed Gatwick for Newark, New Jersey, and we’ve been on an incredible journey ever since. To celebrate this milestone we’ve pulled together a list of the 35 things we love most about being Virgin Atlantic.
1. Our history. Launching Virgin Atlantic in just a few weeks. The fact nobody thought we’d last six months. The battle with BA and how we became one of the most recognised travel brands in the world.
2. Wilbur and Orville, our salt and pepper pots. With ‘Pinched from Virgin Atlantic’ printed on their base, these little shakers have been raising a smile in our Upper Class and Premium cabins for years. They’ve appeared in silver, black, red and gold (special Christmas editions) and rose gold (for the launch of our Airbus A350) and we have giant ones at our offices. They even have their own #pinchedfrom hashtag on social media.
3. Redhead cocktails. Flying is about much more than getting from A to B. You want to kick off your travels in style from the moment you arrive at the airport. That’s why our Clubhouses serve a selection of extraordinary cocktails, including our popular Virgin Redhead. Learn how to make your own here
4. Publicity stunts. In our early days we didn’t have much money for marketing so we had to go guerrilla. From Richard’s daredevil ocean-crossing balloon trips and high speed boat adventures to his pirate takeover of Concorde at Heathrow, these famous stunts helped put us on the map.
5.The Upper Class Wing, our A-list, queue-free, check in experience at Heathrow. As your car pulls up, we’ll be ready to greet you, process your baggage and give you your boarding pass. Be whisked through our private security channel straight to our Clubhouse. From limo to lounge in ten minutes.
6. Aircraft names. From the rock ‘n’ roll Ruby Tuesday to Sleeping Beauty Rejuvenated, our aircraft names are always a talking point at the boarding gate. And it’s almost time to welcome a new generation, with our soon-to-arrive Airbus A350 fleet.
8. Stepping onboard: That welcome drink Upper Class or Premium, the toe tapping boarding music or the welcoming smile of our cabin crew. Always a fave moment.
9. Seatback entertainment, pioneered by us. The first time inflight entertainment appeared on the seatbacks in Economy was on our early Boeing 747s. It had a matchbox sized screen but was a massive step up from the drop down screens in the cabin with only one choice of movie. Which brings us on to…
10. Vera, our onboard entertainment: A specially curated selection of film, TV, music and games refreshed every month, and a feature-packed accompanying magazine.
12. Cargo! Our cargo team are specialists at getting your goods around the world. Everything from rare classic Ferraris to perishables are safely transported across the globe every day.
13. The Heathrow Clubhouse roof terrace. We’re the only airline at Heathrow with an outdoor space, so you can go outside, spot some planes and get a bit of fresh air (and kerosene) before your flight.
14. Shiny happy people. Ask anyone who works here what makes it special and the reply will be the same: ‘it’s the people’. From everyone in the air and on the ground, we’re all delighted to have you onboard. Meet some of our people and read their stories on our careers site
15. Everyone pulling together for safety. We have to mention safety and security because it really is our number one priority. We’re one big team, with every department and every person focused on flying safe and secure.
16. Premium Economy. Back in 1992 we introduced ‘Mid Class’ or Premium as it is now known. While there’s some question about whether it was us or Eva Air who were first to market with the idea, it’s gone on to become one of our most enduring and popular products. In fact only last week we won World’s Best Premium Economy cabin in the Skytrax awards.
17. Flying icons. Although not on our very first aircraft, the Varga Girl or Flying Lady has become a huge part of our identity as an airline, inspired by the nose art of World War II aircraft. Read a brief history of the Varga Girls and look out for some new characters coming to our A350 fleet soon.
18. Delta, our Joint Venture partner. Since joining forces with Delta Air Lines five years ago, we’ve been able to offer you many more options for flying across the Atlantic and onwards to hundreds of destinations in the USA.
19. Richard and our founders. Believe it or not, nine people still work for us who were here right at the very beginning. Drum roll please for Mary Chaffey, Tiina Sauri, Katie Bailey, Angela Lawson, Mary Gooding, Mark Jefferies, Deborah Ropke, Malcolm King-Mackinnon and Orlando Dunning. And, of course, Sir Richard Branson.
20. We love WE. We’re so proud of our much-loved charity partnership. Since 2010, we’ve raised millions of pounds for WE Charity, thanks to your generous spare change donations on board, and our amazing people who climb mountains and cycle across countries to raise money.
21. Our spas. We have spas in our Clubhouses at Heathrow, Gatwick and New York, JFK so you can get a manicure, massage or haircut before your flight. But did you know we also have one in our training centre at Gatwick, so our people can be pampered while at work?
22. Being ourselves: An inclusive environment in which everyone can thrive is at the heart of who we are. We want people to proudly be themselves; no matter their gender, their background, their beliefs, the colour of their skin, their physical ability or who they choose to love.
23. Pioneering more sustainable ways of flying. We’re investing in new, more efficient aircraft like the Airbus A330neo, while also working with Lanzatech to produce innovative sustainable aviation fuel. We’re committed to reducing our aircraft CO2 emissions* by 30% by 2021 (link)
24. Our Scarlet Network for women. In her brilliant book Becoming, Michelle Obama talks about a habit that sustained her for life: ‘Keeping a close and high-spirited council of girlfriends – a safe harbour of female wisdom’. Here at Virgin Atlantic, our Scarlet Network is our own version of that council.
25. Supporting Pride. Next week we take off on a special flight to World Pride in New York. It’s going to be a rainbow coloured party in the sky but with a very serious purpose. We want everyone who works here to feel accepted for who they are and bring their whole selves to work. If you’re in New York next weekend give us a wave
26. Inaugurals. We have a long tradition of launching new routes and promoting our destinations with the kind of razzmatazz, star studded guest lists, celebrity endorsements and gigantic parties that give the Vegas Strip a run for its money. It all started on the 22 June 1984 with our first flight.
27. Virgin Holidays. Our sister company who specialise in creating that perfect holiday for you. Whether that’s a chill out on the beach or a wild experience packed adventure, their team of experts will sort you out that perfect break.
28. Andaro paint. Our iridescent livery paint really makes our aircraft stand out from the crowd. We went behind the scenes to learn more about the most gorgeous colours in the sky.
29. Food and drink. We have menus by celebrity chefs Donal Skehan and Eric Lanlard onboard, including delicious mains and amazing afternoon teas. And don’t forget our eclectic choice of drinks, from Seedlip alcohol-free spirit and Aviation Gin to wines by esteemed vintners Berry Bros & Rudd. We’re constantly introducing new snacks, teas, coffees and other treats because we know you love them as much as we do.
30. Our social media channels. Join us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Linkedin, Pinterest and, of course, Ruby Blog … oh, you’re already here … for the latest Virgin Atlantic news and views as well as competitions and fun stuff.
31. Being different to other airlines. The UK is possibly the only country to have two flag carriers, and we’re proud to give you a choice.
32. The fact we’re 35! (Not many UK airlines have ever reached this age) It’s a great age. Young enough to have fun, not too old that we’re blue and grey.
33. The future: Our 35th birthday marks one of the most exciting periods in our history. We’ve announced new routes to Tel Aviv, Sao Paulo and Mumbai, and a fabulous new fleet of Airbus A350s. We’ve got new cabins and seats, new partners in Air France and KLM, and we’re welcoming Flybe to our family.
35. Our customers, every single one of you. Thank you so much for your loyalty and support over the last 35 years. It’s been our pleasure to have you onboard.