Virgin Atlantic Airways
Virgin Atlantic Airways, usually referred to as Virgin Atlantic, is an airline that operates intercontinental flights from the United Kingdom. It is the flagship organization of Richard Branson's Virgin Group, operating long-haul routes between London and North America, the Caribbean, Africa, Asia and Australia. Its main base is London Heathrow (LHR), with a hub at London Gatwick (LGW).
Virgin's predecessor, British Atlantic Airways, operated flights from the UK to the Falkland Islands starting in 1982. Branson purchased the airline in 1984 and began flights to North America on June 22, 1984, utilizing a single Boeing 747 on scheduled service between London Gatwick and Newark, taking over the small market share of Freddie Laker's failed "Skytrain" operation.
Virgin has always been a competitor and rival of British Airways. In January 1991 the UK Civil Aviation Authority opened the door for Virgin to operate from Heathrow and services were started from July 1991, one of the major causes of the BA "dirty tricks" campaign against Virgin. In 1992 BA's PA director David Burnside published a libelous article in BA News which argued that Branson protestations against British Airways were merely for publicity. Branson sued British Airways for libel. BA settled out of court when its lawyers unearthed evidence of the extraordinary lengths the company went to to "kill off" Virgin. BA was faced with a legal bill of up to �3m, damages to Sir Richard of �500,000 and a further �110,000 to his airline. Branson divided his �500,000 amongst his staff in the so-called "BA bonus", each receving �166.
In the 1990s, Virgin Atlantic jets sported the words "No-Way BA/AA" in opposition to the attempted merger between British Airways and American Airlines. In 1997, following British Airways' announcement that it was to remove the Union Jack from its tailfins in favour of world images, Virgin took advantage of the controversy provoked by introducing a union flag design on the winglets of its aircraft, and changed the red dress on the "Scarlet Lady" on the nose of its aircraft to the union flag also. Relations with British Airways improved considerably (though rivalry continued) with the arrival of Rod Eddington as BA CEO. Eddington replaced Robert Ayling, who was a key player in the dirty tricks affair.
In August 2002, Virgin became the first airline to begin flights with the Airbus A340-600. Rolls-Royce have won all recent engine competitions for Virgin aircraft; the company's Trent will power the A340s and A380s on order.
Virgin Atlantic operates services to the following international scheduled destinations (at January 2005): Amsterdam, Antigua, Barbados, Boston, Cape Town, Delhi, Grenada, Hong Kong, Johannesburg, Lagos, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Milan, New York, Orlando, Port Harcourt, San Francisco,Singapore, Shanghai, St Lucia, Sydney, Tobago, Tokyo and Washington.
The Virgin Atlantic fleet consists of the following aircraft (at January 2005):
In November 2003 Virgin introduced the Upper Class Suite, which is the longest totally flat bed in Business Class. The Upper Class Suite is fitted on all A340-600 and 747-400 aircraft. Approximately half of the A340-300 aircraft in the Virgin Atlantic fleet will have Suites fitted during 2005, whilst the remaining aircraft will either be sold or retired. The airline is known for its passenger service: Upper Class passengers can avail themselves of massage services in-flight, and can also request complimentary limousine pick-up and drop-off at the airport. Unlike most international carriers, Virgin gives free personal kits, including toothbrush, pen, earplugs, eyemask, and headphones, to passengers in all three classes. Virgin also pioneered seat-back personal TVs in all classes, and are currently upgrading all their aircraft to a Audio/Video on Demand (AVOD) system called V:Port.
Virgin Atlantic has ordered 6 Airbus A380 aircraft with options on 6 more. The first delivery is expected to enter service in March 2008 and the aircraft will be used on services from London to Hong Kong, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Sydney and Tokyo. The option of using the A380 on charter services, eg Orlando, is being explored (ref: Airliner World, March 2005).
Virgin's aircraft are christened with female names such as "Ladybird", "Island Lady", and "Ruby Tuesday". Many are named after destinations on the Virgin route network, such as "Maiden Tokyo" and "California Girl". Virgin's fleet also has several tongue in cheek registrations, California Girl is G-VLAX, after Los Angeles International. Boston Belle is G-VJFK after Massachusetts' famous son, others include G-VIRG, G-VGIN and G-VXLG for a 747-400.
The current Virgin livery features a pinup girl near the nose of each aircraft called the "Scarlet Lady", carrying a Union Jack flag in a form remniscient of British Airways' traditional "speedbird" logo.
- Gregory, Martyn. Dirty Tricks: British Airways' Secret War Against Virgin Atlantic. New York: Virgin, 2000. ISBN 0753504588
- Virgin America
- Virgin Blue
- Virgin Express
- Virgin Galactic
- Virgin Nigeria
- Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer
- Virgin Atlantic Airways
- Virgin Atlantic Fleet Detail
- Virgin Atlantic Passenger Opinions
- Virgin Atlantic Flyer (V-Flyer) (customer-created site)
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