Our Experience

Celebrating Route Launches the Virgin Way

by scottnlynch June 2010 - last edited February 2013 by Community Manager

Virgin Atlantic has a long tradition of launching new routes and promoting its destinations with the kind of razzmatazz that would give the Vegas Strip a run for its money. As we prepare to celebrate 10 years of flying to Las Vegas with a party in Sin City that even Elvis would be crazy to miss, we look back and discover what makes special trips like these the stuff of legends.

 

A star-studded guest list

So, who can you expect to see on a Virgin Atlantic inaugural? Well this photo of Richard Branson posing on the steps of his first Boeing 747 before Virgin Atlantic’s maiden flight to New York in 1984 will give you a pretty good idea of who could be onboard. There’s usually a clutch of celebrities, a host of travel writers and media moguls, a plethora of special guests and frequent flyers as well as Richard and his family.  And if you are lucky enough you may have booked yourself a seat by pure chance. Go you!

 

 

Virgin Atlantic inaugural flight

A celebrity endorsed send-off

Things usually start in one of Virgin Atlantic’s sumptuous Clubhouses at London Heathrow or London Gatwick. Here, guests get to enjoy a glass of bubbly and a bite to eat before the flight. Richard will often hold a press conference then don his top hat and tails, enter stage right and put his best foot forward. Here he is back in 2007 with some of the cast of London’s West End production of Chicago before Virgin Atlantic’s inaugural to the Windy City.

 

Richard Branson and Chicago cast

Before boarding our 25th Birthday flight to the Big Apple last year Richard even squeezed in a wing walk with super model Kate Moss, dressed as one of Virgin Atlantic’s iconic flying ladies. It was a fantastic photo opportunity and was carried in newspapers and magazines around the globe.

 

Virgin Atlantic 25th Birthday flight with Kate Moss

Richard, Holly and Sam Branson with Kate Moss celebrating Virgin Atlantic's 25th Anniversary

 

In-flight entertainment with a difference

There’s always a good party atmosphere on the flight over. The legendary Virgin Atlantic service comes as standard but there are often a few surprises for passengers thrown in for good measure from onboard magicians to competitions and give-aways. There’s so much going on that you may forget to tune into the on-demand entertainment system!

 

The obligatory wing-walk

Upon arrival it’s time for costume change - number two - for Richard and then the official iconic pose on the wing of the jet. Over the years Richard has been joined by celebrities, beauty queens and even sporting heroes for that all-important photo. Here he is with British lightweight boxer Amir Khan after having just touched down in Havana in 2005.

 

 

Richard Branson and Amir Khan in Havana, 2005

Trip of a life-time

Virgin Atlantic’s Press Office and Events Team go to great lengths to devise itineraries that even the most seasoned travellers would find enthralling. Take the Nairobi inaugural in 2007 for instance: guests were whisked away to the Masai Mara for an afternoon game drive and sunset cocktails. Absolute bliss! The following day it was up early for an invigorating hot air balloon ride before returning to the Kenyan capital for lunch at the Giraffe Manor.

 

While there, Richard was made a tribal Elder - the Masai tribe awarded him the honour in return for bringing prosperity to the land.

 

Richard Branson with Masai elders

There’s always some activity or event to suit every taste on one of these whistle-stop tours, whether it’s a shopping expedition around the souks of Dubai, a light lunch overlooking  Sydney Harbour or even white water rafting down the Martha Brae River in Montego Bay.

 

P-A-R-T-Y

Virgin Atlantic inaugurals are of course also famed for their parties. The venue is carefully picked, so much so, that if the event organisers cannot find anything that fits the bill they’ll create their own! In Sydney the team transformed a parking lot into the ultimate party hangout made up of a series of marquees and garden spaces. It’s in our nature to always go the extra mile for people.

 

 

Richard Branson and carnival girls at Tobago inaugural party

Richard Branson and carnival girls at Tobago inaugural party

 

So, the scene is set for Las Vegas on 15 June 2010. It’s been months in the planning and if our past record is anything to go by the guys on the trip are sure to have a good time. Don’t forget you can follow all the action right here on the vtravelled blog throughout the week.

Ever been on a Virgin inaugural flight? We'd love to hear your memories in the comments below.


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DavidRowlands June 2012
I flew on Virgin Atlantic's Inaugural Flight to Vancouver on 24th May 2012. I have always wanted to fly on an inaugural and seeing that seats were available I decided to go on this "Trip of a Life-Time!" as quoted in this article.

I was so excited at all that was promised above but let me tell you, there is so much wrong with the article above that I don't know where to start:-

"A star-studded guest list! So, who can you expect to see on a Virgin Atlantic inaugural?"

In reality - Not a single familiar face was spotted - well apart from one of the Air Hostesses who I'm sure was on a previous flight I was on!!!

"There’s always a good party atmosphere on the flight over"

Maybe if you're in Upper Class? As for being told that "everyone gets involved" by a VAA customer serivce advisor - you can forget it! It was a standard flight and could have been to anywhere - as for an Inaugural you would never have known it other than the pilot said it was a couple of times! He even said "Hope you enjoy the surprises in store" but there were none!

"There’s so much going on that you may forget to tune into the on-demand entertainment system!"

Nothing happened!!!! and I watched my IFE for the whole nine and a half hours!

"a few surprises for passengers thrown in for good measure from onboard magicians to competitions and give-aways"

No - the only two surprises were that 1. We got a brand new aircraft for the flight allowing me to check out Panasonic's JAM IFE - Which is very good by the way! 2. I found out that spending my money on an inaugural was for nothing!

On arriving at YVR there was no water salute as on previous Inaugural Flights but we did park away from the gate to be greeted by press outside. Well the VIPS were - we were turfed off of the plane like cattle (from the back door where the inflight meals are normally loaded) and onto a packed bus to go straight to border control! Nice! Virgin obviously didn't want us to be involved at all!

So my experience was that of disappointment - I felt like crying at YVR after spending money for such an experiecne that turned out to be such a let down.

I did make a complaint to VAA and was told to expect 44 days for a reply!!! Seriously Virgin - GET IT SORTED!!!

Fortunately, I had to wait only 3 weeks for a response and all they said was SORRY!!! Not quite what I'd expected being a loyal customer of 12 years with 76,000 flying club miles!

My advice - If you do get the chance to go on an inaugural with Virgin go to Florida instead, with BA!

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About the author: scottnlynch

Scott Lynch