30 Years of Virgin Atlantic In Pictures (Part 3)

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Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787 Dreamliner
Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787 Dreamliner

As Virgin Atlantic celebrates its thirtieth anniversary later this month, here are more images from the airline’s history.

In the third part of our series, we take a look at the some of the airline’s aircraft past and present:

In 1993, after building up a substantial fleet of Boeing 747s, Virgin Atlantic took delivery of its first Airbus A340-400 aircraft. Sir Richard Branson is pictured above with the late Diana, Princess of Wales, at a naming ceremony for the aircraft on 6 December 1993. The aircraft was named “Lady In Red”.

Here are more pictures from events marking the arrival of the aircraft:

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In the late 1990s, Virgin’s arch-rival, British Airways, surprised the industry by opting for the twin engine Boeing 777 for future fleet additions over the Boeing 747 (of which British Airways was one of the world’s largest operators).

In response, Virgin placed the decal “4 Engines 4 Long Haul” on its aircraft. BA’s decision to opt for the Boeing 777 proved to be the right one and may well explain the divergent financial performance of the two airlines in recent years.

This is not the only time Virgin has used its liveries to make pot-shots at its rival. On at least two occasions, many Virgin aircraft were emblazaned with the slogan “No Way BA/AA”. This was in protest at a proposed joint-venture between American Airlines and BA. The first time AA and BA sought a tie-up, they were stopped by regulators. The second time, the two parties withdrew on the basis the concessions sought by regulators were too great. On the third occasion, after the liberalisation of the EU-US transatlantic market in 2008 which opened up London Heathrow to all US and European airlines, AA and BA were successful. This prompted Virgin to eventually launch its own joint-venture with Delta.

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In 2001, Virgin Atlantic, amongst much fan-fare, (and promises of in-flight gyms and shops) placed an order for the Airbus A380. Here, Sir Richard Branson is pictured with the former British Prime Minister Tony Blair in January 2005 at the Airbus plant in Blagnac, near Toulouse where Airbus unveiled the A380.

Virgin Atlantic has yet to take delivery of an A380. Whilst the airline has not officially confirmed whether it has cancelled its order for the A380, given that its fleet of Boeing 747s and Airbus A340s are being replaced with Airbus A330 and Boeing 787 aircraft, it would seem counter to this strategy to take delivery of the aircraft.

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The Boeing 747 has been the main-stay of Virgin’s fleet since the airline launched in 1994. Whilst many airlines have phased out the Boeing 747 entirely, along with British Airways, it is still represents a large part of its fleet, particularly at London Gatwick.

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In April 2011, Virgin Atlantic took delivery of the first of ten Airbus A330 aircraft. This was the first twin-enginned long haul jet to be operated by the airline. The aircraft operates from both London Heathrow and London Gatwick.

Later this year, Virgin Atlantic is due to take delivery of its first Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Here, Sir Richard Branson and Virgin staff are pictured in a mock-up of the aircraft. The first route to be served by the Dreamliner is expected to be Boston.

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