30 Years of Virgin Atlantic In Pictures (Part 1)

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Virgin Atlantic aircraft at London Heathrow

Virgin Atlantic celebrates its thirtieth anniversary later this month.

On 22 June 1984, flight VS1 departed London Gatwick for Newark airport, operated by a Boeing 747-200 aircraft bearing the name “Maiden Voyager”. The airline has grown significantly since then. It now flies to approximately thirty destinations worldwide, principally from London Heathrow and London Gatwick airports.

Whilst Virgin has struggled in recent years with the airline losing money for four of the past five years and it suspending a number of routes (Accra, Nairobi, Sydney), it remains one of aviation’s most iconic brands, marketing itself with a confidence and flair that few can match, and is known for punching well above its weight in terms of its profile in the industry.

Flight VS1 still operates to Newark today, but from London Heathrow which is now the airline’s principal base for flights to North America. New York continues to be one of Virgin Atlantic’s most important routes with the airline operating a combined six flights a day (nine if you add Delta codeshares) to Newark and New York JFK airports combined.

Here is the first of a collection of images from Virgin Atlantic’s 30 year history, starting with the launch of the airline in 1984 and its inaugural flight:

(Click here for parts two and three of our collection.

Alan Hellary, Sir Richard Branson and Randolph Fields hold a press conference in February 1984 before the launch of Virgin Atlantic Airways.

Sir Richard Branson holding a model Boeing 747 at a press conference for the launch of Virgin Atlantic airline on 29 February 1984. Sir Richard announced a plan for a scheduled service between Gatwick and Newark using a leased 747. The fare was to be 99 pounds.

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Another image of Sir Richard Branson at a news conference to launch the airline.

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Sir Richard Branson on the steps of a Boeing 747-200 “Maiden Voyager”, on the day of its inaugural flight, 22nd June 1984.

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Sir Richard Branson celebrates the first flight of Virgin Atlantic with a group of celebrities, including singer Holly Johnson, actress Bonnie Langford and actress Suzanne Danielle.

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