When we first started flying in 1984, the world was changing rapidly. In the UK, boom time had arrived, and a lot of people had more money to spend, with a greater desire to explore the world. The airline world hadn’t changed much at all and there wasn’t much choice, each country only had its state owned legacy airline. Expensive, with little emphasis on the customers’ needs, if you needed to get somewhere, you only had one airline to choose from. And what a dull, grey experience that was.
The time was right for someone to come in and shake things up. And did we ever.
Richard Branson, our enthusiastic chairman, did anything to get attention for his businesses, including hot air ballooning, abseiling down Manhattan high rises or kissing Spice Girls. The more he got in the news for his adventures, the more Virgin Atlantic became renowned as the airline you flew if you wanted an adventure. His personality became our airline’s personality. ‘Screw it, let’s do it’ was Richard’s philosophy, and it served us well too as we grew, launching new destinations and taking on the airline world with our emphasis on exceptional service. As we arrived in new markets, his fame had often beaten us there, and it was easy for us to tap into his personality to establish ours.
Throughout the 80s and early 90s, we continued to lead the pack. Sleepy legacy carriers were too slow, or too entrenched in their ways to catch up with us. And even if they did, we’d dream up something even more innovative. As our business established itself in markets appealing to business travellers, then our personality slowly had to change too. The cheeky language we’d employed to encourage people to fly with us on their holidays was no longer quite as appropriate to talk to a business audience – although we still managed to promote our seatback screens as ‘nine inches of pure pleasure.’ But as much as people enjoyed flying with us, we didn’t fly everywhere, so they often had to fly with somebody else.
In 2012, we formed an alliance with Delta Air Lines to offer our customers access to an even greater network, seamless travel and reciprocal frequent flyer benefits. In 2019, we extended this to join forces with Air France KLM, to offer passengers even more choice and value.