Virgin Atlantic Airlines
Virgin Atlantic Airlines
by Tom Martens
A leader in the industry, Virgin Airlines is known for its brashly British attitude. Owned by Richard Branson's Virgin Group and Singapore Airlines, it operates long haul routes between the UK and North America, Africa, the Caribbean, Australia, Asia, and the Middle East from its main bases at London Heathrow and London Gatwick and a secondary base at Manchester Airport.
It further extends its network through code-sharing relationships (agreements that allow airlines to sell tickets on each other's flights) with other airlines including Air China, Continental Airlines, Singapore Airlines, and Australia-based sister company Virgin Blue.Virgin Atlantic serves about 30 destinations worldwide with its fleet of more than 35 aircraft.
Virgin Atlantic and its sister companies got their start in'82 when American Randolph Fields teamed up with pilot Alan Hellary to launch British Atlantic Airways. Plans for two routes, one from London to the Falkland Islands in the aftermath of the Falkland War, and the other from London Gatwick to JFK Airport, were either scrapped or rejected. Plans were in the works for a route between London Gatwick and Newark Liberty International Airport, when it became necessary for the company to secure additional funding.
Fields and Branson finalized a deal (Fields was eventually bought out) in contentious negotiations, and the airline, now renamed Virgin Atlantic, operated its first flight between London and Newark in June of'84. Thanks to financing from sister company Virgin Records and smart timing (the airline's first flights took advantage of the summer travel season) the company posted a profit in its first year of operation.
British Airways and Virgin Atlantic have always been competitors since the former was formed. After Virgin Atlantic obtained permission from the UK government from London Heathrow airport in January'91, the competition became so intense that it sparked off BA's launch of its so-called "dirty tricks" against Virgin Atlantic. The campaign included libel lawsuits which were eventually settled out of court by BA after evidence of the extreme steps taken by BA to quash Virgin Atlantic were discovered by the latter's lawyers.
Some examples: Mine's Bigger Than Yours - painted on the back of the Airbus A340-600s because they are the longest passenger aircraft in the world. Virgin has never been shy about taking on its competition through its advertising.
Avoid the Q - Advertised Virgin's London to Hong Kong to Sydney route in opposition to Quantas which was operating the same route; also promoted Virgins online check-in literally allowing passengers to avoid the queues.
Upper class is the equivalent of business class since the airline does not offer a traditional first class cabin service. Virgin Atlantic claims its Upper Class seat is the largest fully flat bed when compared with any other airlines' business class seating.No Way BA/AA - Expressed Branson's displease with a proposed British Airways/American Airlines partnership.Virgin Atlantic currently offers three cabin classes: upper class, premium economy and economy.
Premium Economy passengers have their own check-in and get to board before Economy passengers. They enjoy greater seat width and legroom. Most planes have undergone upgrading to provide Premium Economy seats that come with power supplies for laptops. Economy class now includes free drinks and upgraded seats with adjustable back support in all aircraft.
All Virgin Atlantic aircraft offer personal televisions mounted in the seat backs. Some aircraft have audio/video on demand systems.Virgin Atlantic's sister airlines include: Virgin America, Virgin Blue, Virgin Express, Virgin Galactic, Virgin Nigeria Airways, Virgin Atlantic Global Flyer and V Australia.
About the Author:
Tom Martens is the syndication coordinator for South Arica's leading Flight comparison portal, which includes Virgin Atlantic Airlines amongst others.
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