Virgin Atlantic is owned by Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Group, and operates flights between the UK and the USA, the Caribbean, the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Australia. It is the seventh largest airline in the UK, based on number of passengers, and offers direct departures from London Heathrow, London Gatwick, Manchester and Glasgow.
In 2012, Virgin Atlantic carried 5.4 million passengers and currently flies to 34 destinations worldwide.
Extensive US flights, now flying all around the world
Virgin Atlantic was founded in 1984, and formerly known as British Atlantic Airways. Established by Randolph Fields and Alan Hellery, with Branson soon coming on board, the company was established as a successor to Laker Airways. After initially trying to obtain a license for arrival at JDK in New York, but being turned down thanks to objections from British Airways, British Caledonian and BAA, Virgin Atlantic saw its inaugural flight from London Gatwick to Newark depart on a leased Boeing 747-200 aircraft on 22nd June 1984.
The airline was dedicated to offering a high quality, value for money service, with Virgin Atlantic becoming profitable in its first year of business, and soon adding new routes into Miami, JFK, Tokyo, Los Angeles, Boston and Orlando. In 1992, Richard Branson sold Virgin Music, investing the profits into Virgin Atlantic, and in 1999 sold a 49% stake in the company to Singapore Airlines.
Today, the airline also flies to San Francisco, Las Vegas, Washington DC, Chicago and Orlando in the USA, as well as Barbados, Antigua, Jamaica, St. Lucia and Tobago in the Caribbean. Other destinations served by Virgin Atlantic feature Shanghai, Hong Kong, Sydney, Delhi, Dubai, Lagos, Nairobi, Cape Town and Johannesburg, with the airline codesharing with a number of airlines including Flybe, BMI, Continental Airlines, Air China and Virgin Blue, and having alliances with partners such as Malaysia Airlines, Gulf Air and US Airways.
Virgin Atlantic now boasts a fleet of 41 aircraft - a combination of Airbus and Boeing - featuring Boeing 787-9 and 747-400, and Airbus 330-300, A340-300 and A340-600, as well as the A380-800. The company operates a 'Change In The Air' sustainability programme, with plans to cut weight and fuel consumption, and ordering a number of 787-9 Dreamliners for the future, which use 27% less fuel than the A340-300. Virgin Atlantic also operated the world's first commercial flight using biofuel in 2008.
A choice of three seat classes, offering comfort and service
Passengers travelling on Virgin Atlantic have a choice of three different classes - Economy, Premium Economy and Upper Class. Economy features free meals, drinks and seatback TV's, whilst Premium Economy offers more space, priority boarding, a dedicated cabin crew and more dining options.
Virgin Atlantic provides Business Class flights in their Upper Class service, with enhanced features such as fully flat beds, extensive menus and the choice of chauffeur-driven ground services or first-class train tickets.