12 December 2022, etc.venues Monument, London
Business Travel Show Europe, presented by The BTN
21 November, London Hilton Metropole
COMMENT: Sir Richard Branson Celebrates 21 Years
On Friday June 22 1984 amid great hype, a new airline took to the skies, Virgin Atlantic Airways. Its one-way fare from Gatwick to Newark on the less fashionable New Jersey side of New York was ”99. Very visibly the power behind the whole project was Richard Branson, then 33, and already the highly successful entrepreneur behind the Virgin record group. The late Randolph Fields, an Anglo American lawyer, was his partner and given it was only two years since the failure of another high profile operation, that of Laker Airways, many (including your editor) were sceptical as to the success of the new project. Amongst the high profile passenger list was illusionist Uri Gellar, ”It”s all make believe”, one commentator was supposed to have said, ”Just like the Israeli magician, Branson”s trying to create a false impression”. Never have so many been proven wrong, with today”s Virgin Atlantic a major force in international long distance air transport, with a current fleet of 32 aircraft and the mighty Airbus A380 on order. When Cuba, Montego Bay and Dubai are added to the route network later this year Virgin Atlantic will serve 30 airports all around the globe.
It is interesting to go back to 1984. Entry for new British airlines was very difficult, with British Caledonian a powerful second force to BA and, although we did not know it at the time, only three more years life left in it. Pan Am ordered the Airbus A310 and the recently unveiled A320. For the first time a twin-engine passenger jet was allowed to fly non-stop across the Atlantic, an El Al Boeing 767.
From those early days Branson and Virgin Atlantic have never looked back. It”s always been expansion minded and innovative. In 1991, following the demise of B”Cal, traffic rights into Heathrow were gained, easily the world”s largest, most important and lucrative international airport. ”Upper Class” was an early introduction and whilst ”a bar in the sky” was nothing new certainly masseurs and manicurists were. Virgin has also been pioneering in the high quality offered in economy product and with its increasingly popular and much copied premium economy.
In all but three of its 21 years Virgin Atlantic has made a profit. From 125,000 passengers in1984 it has now carried 42m, 4.3m last year. Not a bad achievement. And in typical (Sir) Richard Branson style look out for Virgin Atlantic exposure on Wednesday 22 June. The young lad has truly come of age. Congratulations.
If you can identify more than five of the personalities in the picture please let us know and whoever gets the most might be in line for a small gift from Virgin. And yes, we spotted Mick Jaggar in the background.