Virgin Atlantic is a British Airline and is trading name of Virgin Atlantic Airways Limited and Virgin Atlantic International Limited. It has its head office in Crawley, in the UK.
It was established in 1984 by Randolph Fields and Alan Hellary to fly between London and Falkland Islands and was originally called British Atlantic Airlines. The idea of flying to the Falkland Islands was dropped though due to the fact that Port Stanley Airport has such as short runway that it would not work so they decided to run flights from Gatwick to JFK International Airport instead. However there were objections and this was not allowed.
They therefore decided to go to Newark instead but there was a budget airline offering this service so they decided they needed more funds before they could go ahead. This is when Richard Branson became involved as he proposed a business partnership which eventually led to him joining the group. However, Fields had disagreements with Richard Branson over the management of the company and sold his shares and then the name was changed. The first flight went from London Gatwick to Newark Liberty International Airport.
This took place on 22nd June and used a leased Boeing 747-200 which had previously been used by Aerolineas Argentinas. Richard Branson has a business approach that if the company was not successful within a year they would exit the market and they became profitable within the year, which was helped by the fact that Virgin records was able to finance the lease of second plane. The company is now owned by a holding company Virgin Atlantic Limited who also own Virgin Holidays and they are 51% owned by the Virgin Group with the other 49% owned by Delta Airlines. This is separate for administrative purposes to other Virgin branded airlines.
In November 1984 they expanded to offering a service between Gatwick Airport and Maastrict Aachen Airport using a BAC One-Eleven. In 1986 they also added another route from Gatwick to Miami using a new Boeing 747. Over late years they acquired more planes and added on routes from Gatwick to JFK, Tokyo, Los Angeles, Boston and Orlando. Then in 1987 they used a Viscount turboprop aircraft to fly between Luton and Dublin but stopped this after a few years. Around this time they also used Club air to run routes between Luton and Dublin.
Virgin Atlantic has a range of planes including Airbus and Boeing wide-body aircraft and it has main bases in London Heathrow, London Gatwick and Manchester. It also flies from Glasgow and operates seasonal flights from Belfast. It flies to many destinations including Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Middle East and North America. The aircraft have three cabins, Economy, Premium economy and Upper Class.
In terms of passenger volume it was the seventh largest UK airline in 2012 when it carried 5.4 million passengers. It made a loss in 2013 but the following year made a profit again. After announcing the loss there was some controversy with the public relations director of British Airways saying that Branson was protesting against British Airways as a publicity stunt but he sued them for libel and it was settled out of court and it was found out that British Airways were trying many things to try to put Virgin Atlantic out of business. The compensation was reportedly donated by Branson to his staff.
Before the company started British Airways was the only company to run flights from the UK to the Far East, Caribbean and North America. In 1991 Virgin was allowed to operate from Heathrow as before this most traffic had to run from Gatwick to ensure the airport remained profitable. Virgin Atlantic was given two slots at Tokyo’s Narita Airport that had previously been held by British Airways allowing them to make more trips and they could then compete more easily against British Airways. However, they got themselves into trouble in 2006 when the US and UK competitions authority investigated price fixing between them and British Airways over passenger fuel surcharges. Although it was British Airways that got fined Virgin Atlantic admitted that they were aware of it and had not done anything to prevent it. There was also an investigation into price fixing between Virgin Atlantic and Cathay Pacific but they were both cleared.
More recently they have reduced some of their flights, codesharing some with Delta Air Lines. They also axed their ‘little red’ flights and British Airways took them over. In 2015 Richard Branson admitted that Virgin Atlantic would be in real trouble without the support of Delta Airlines and they made big losses between 2010 and 2013 which actually lead some to doubt their future. But they cut jobs and tried to establish a more efficient management structure. In 2017 the announced that they would be forming a joint venture with Air France-KLM who would get a 31% share subject to approval but the company would still fly under the current branding.
Although the company has always been known for its good service and has had awards for it, there have been incidents of delays and cancellations over the years. As the company is based in the EU, then it is covered under the 261/2004 EU regulation which pays out compensation in certain circumstances. If a flight arrives more than three hours late or is cancelled due to fault of the airline then compensation can be claimed. It is worth trying to claim it as you may be able to get up to 600 euros for each person that flew and so if the delay was significant you could be owed a lot of money. You can claim for flights up to five years ago and so it does not even have to be that recent.