Virgin Atlantic has a long tradition of launching new routes and promoting its destinations with the kind of razzmatazz that would give the Vegas Strip a run for its money. As we prepare to celebrate 10 years of flying to Las Vegas with a party in Sin City that even Elvis would be crazy to miss, we look back and discover what makes special trips like these the stuff of legends.
A star-studded guest list
So, who can you expect to see on a Virgin Atlantic inaugural? Well this photo of Richard Branson posing on the steps of his first Boeing 747 before Virgin Atlantic’s maiden flight to New York in 1984 will give you a pretty good idea of who could be onboard. There’s usually a clutch of celebrities, a host of travel writers and media moguls, a plethora of special guests and frequent flyers as well as Richard and his family. And if you are lucky enough you may have booked yourself a seat by pure chance. Go you!
A celebrity endorsed send-off
Things usually start in one of Virgin Atlantic’s sumptuous Clubhouses at London Heathrow or London Gatwick. Here, guests get to enjoy a glass of bubbly and a bite to eat before the flight. Richard will often hold a press conference then don his top hat and tails, enter stage right and put his best foot forward. Here he is back in 2007 with some of the cast of London’s West End production of Chicago before Virgin Atlantic’s inaugural to the Windy City.
Before boarding our 25th Birthday flight to the Big Apple last year Richard even squeezed in a wing walk with super model Kate Moss, dressed as one of Virgin Atlantic’s iconic flying ladies. It was a fantastic photo opportunity and was carried in newspapers and magazines around the globe.
In-flight entertainment with a difference
There’s always a good party atmosphere on the flight over. The legendary Virgin Atlantic service comes as standard but there are often a few surprises for passengers thrown in for good measure from onboard magicians to competitions and give-aways. There’s so much going on that you may forget to tune into the on-demand entertainment system!
The obligatory wing-walk
Upon arrival it’s time for costume change – number two – for Richard and then the official iconic pose on the wing of the jet. Over the years Richard has been joined by celebrities, beauty queens and even sporting heroes for that all-important photo. Here he is with British lightweight boxer Amir Khan after having just touched down in Havana in 2005.
Trip of a life-time
Virgin Atlantic’s Press Office and Events Team go to great lengths to devise itineraries that even the most seasoned travellers would find enthralling. Take the Nairobi inaugural in 2007 for instance: guests were whisked away to the Masai Mara for an afternoon game drive and sunset cocktails. Absolute bliss! The following day it was up early for an invigorating hot air balloon ride before returning to the Kenyan capital for lunch at the Giraffe Manor.
While there, Richard was made a tribal Elder – the Masai tribe awarded him the honour in return for bringing prosperity to the land.
There’s always some activity or event to suit every taste on one of these whistle-stop tours, whether it’s a shopping expedition around the souks of Dubai, a light lunch overlooking Sydney Harbour or even white water rafting down the Martha Brae River in Montego Bay.
Virgin Atlantic inaugurals are of course also famed for their parties. The venue is carefully picked, so much so, that if the event organisers cannot find anything that fits the bill they’ll create their own! In Sydney the team transformed a parking lot into the ultimate party hangout made up of a series of marquees and garden spaces. It’s in our nature to always go the extra mile for people.
So, the scene is set for Las Vegas on 15 June 2010. It’s been months in the planning and if our past record is anything to go by the guys on the trip are sure to have a good time. Don’t forget you can follow all the action right here on the vtravelled blog throughout the week.
Ever been on a Virgin inaugural flight? We’d love to hear your memories in the comments below.