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Virgin Atlantic Airways

Virgin Atlantic Airways
Virgin Atlantic Airways



Callsign VIRGIN 1984 22 June 1984 London Heathrow Airport London Gatwick Airport Manchester Airport Flying Club Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse 38[1] (+21 orders) 30 Virgin Group Crawley, England, UK Richard Branson (President) Stephen Murphy (Chairman) Steve Ridgway (CEO)

Founded Commenced operations Hubs Focus cities Frequent flyer program Member lounge Fleet size Destinations Parent company Headquarters Key people

Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd. (operating as Virgin Atlantic) is a British airline owned by Richard Branson’s Virgin Group (51%) and Singapore Airlines (49%). It is headquartered in Crawley, West Sussex, England, near London Gatwick Airport.[2] It operates between the United Kingdom and North America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and Australia from main bases at London Heathrow and London Gatwick. Virgin has a smaller base at Manchester Airport. The company holds a United Kingdom Civil Aviation Authority Type A Operating Licence to carry passengers, cargo, and mail on aircraft with 20 or more seats.[3] In the year to February 2007, Virgin Atlantic carried 5.1 million passengers and made an annual profit of £46.8 million on turnover of £2,140 million.[4]

Conception and birth
In 1982, Randolph Fields, an American-born lawyer, and Alan Hellary, a former chief pilot for Laker Airways, set up British Atlantic Airways as a successor to Laker Airways. Fields got the idea of an airline from London to the Falkland Islands in June 1982, when the Falklands War had just finished and there was need for a service.[5] Fields needed expertise and contacted Alan Hellary, Laker Airways’ former chief pilot, who had thought about establishing a regular, commercial service to the Falklands at the same time. Hellary was in contact with colleagues out of work following the collapse of Laker Airways and they worked on the idea. However the short runway at Port Stanley and the time to improve it made the scheme unviable, so the idea of the Falklands service was dropped. Instead, Hellary and Fields tried to secure a licence from London Gatwick to JFK Airport in New York. A threeday inquiry in May 1983 rejected it after British Airways, British Caledonian and BAA objected. Hellary and Fields applied for a licence between Gatwick and Newark Liberty


"The Office", headquarters building in Crawley, West Sussex


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Virgin Atlantic Airways
between Luton and Dublin using Viscount turbo-prop aircraft, but this was withdrawn around 1990. In 1988, Club Air operated two Boeing 727 aircraft on behalf of Virgin. They were leased from Eastern Airlines to also serve the Luton to Dublin route. These were withdrawn around 1990 too.

Later years
Boeing 747-400 landing Airbus A340-600 International Airport, outside New York. It was planned that British Atlantic Airways would use a 380-seat DC-10 to fly to Newark. However, faced with the prospect of direct competition from People Express, a post-deregulation "no frills" discount airline at Newark, they decided to secure more funding before proceeding. Fields met Richard Branson at a party in Central London during which he proposed a business partnership . After protracted and testy negotiations, Fields agreed to a reduced stake of 25% in the airline (renamed Virgin Atlantic) and became first chairman. Following disagreements over operations, Fields agreed to be bought out for an initial sum of £1 million with further payment on Virgin’s first dividend. As a result of a High Court action, this additional payment was received shortly before Fields’ death from cancer in 1997. On June 22, 1984 Virgin Atlantic operated its inaugural scheduled service between Gatwick and Newark Liberty using a leased Boeing 747-200 (G-VIRG) formerly operated by Aerolineas Argentinas. The airline became profitable during its first year, aided by sister company Virgin Records’ ability to finance the lease of a secondhand Boeing 747. The firm timed operations to take advantage of a full summer, which included the June to September - the most profitable. In March 2000 Virgin Group sold 49% of the airline’s holding company to Singapore Airlines for £600.25 million. Virgin Group still owns the remaining 51%. In June 2002, Virgin became first to use the Airbus A340-600. Virgin Atlantic carried 3.8 million passengers in 2003.[6] This increased to 4.6 million in 2006, placing them seventh among UK airlines but second in passenger-miles because of the long-haul nature of operations.[7] During the 2012 Summer Olympics bids, Virgin Atlantic attached "London 2012" to the rear of many of their Boeing 747-400 fleet. Virgin volunteered a Boeing 747 for a test of biofuels. In February 2008, it flew from Heathrow to Amsterdam, with no passengers, and 20% of power for one engine provided by plant-based biofuel. The airline said it expected to use biofuels based on algae.[8]

Rivalry with British Airways
Virgin Atlantic has been a rival of British Airways since inception.[9]

Background to opening up Heathrow
In January 1991, the UK opened London Heathrow Airport to Virgin when it abolished the London Air Traffic Distribution Rules in response to pressure from the industry.

Formative years
In 1986, the airline added another Boeing 747 and started a scheduled route from Gatwick to Miami. Additional aircraft were acquired and routes launched from Gatwick to New York-JFK (1988), Tokyo (1989), Los Angeles (1990), Boston (1991), and Orlando (1992). In 1987 a service was launched

Virgin Atlantic’s precarious financial position during the early 1990s
According to industry insiders, Virgin Atlantic had increasing financial problems. This was primarily the result of a reduction in demand for travel caused by the recession of


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the early 1990s as well as by fear to travel in the aftermath of the first Gulf War. Britain’s Conservative Government, which had presided over the collapse of the International Leisure Group (ILG) and its subsidiary Air Europe resulting in 4,000 job losses[9] was aware that Dan-Air was on the brink of bankruptcy, and wanted to avoid the collapse of another independent British airline, especially if its profile was as high as Virgin Atlantic’s. The Government was conscious that many of these independent airlines’ employees, whose jobs were threatened by the then prevailing economic climate, lived in marginal Conservative constituencies. The Government decided to let Virgin Atlantic into Heathrow despite facing opposition from British Airways.

Virgin Atlantic Airways

BA’s response
The decision to open Heathrow to all newcomers in 1991 - other than those governed by Bermuda II - angered BA’s chairman, Lord King, who stopped British Airways’ donations to the Conservative Party in protest. Lord King was furthermore angered by the United Kingdom Civil Aviation Authority’s subsequent decision to transfer two pairs of unused slots British Airways held at Tokyo’s Narita International Airport to Virgin to let Virgin increase its frequency between Heathrow and Tokyo from four to six weekly roundtrips, making it easier for Virgin to compete against British Airways. Lord King called the CAA’s decision, which the Government had endorsed, "a confiscation of his company’s property".[10]

"Dirty tricks"
The decision to abolish the London Air Traffic Distribution Rules and to let Virgin Atlantic operate at Heathrow in competition with British Airways became the trigger for BA’s socalled "dirty tricks" campaign against Virgin. In 1993 BA’s PR director, David Burnside, published an article in "BA News", British Airways’ internal magazine, which argued that Branson’s protests against British Airways were a publicity stunt. Branson sued British Airways for libel. BA settled out of court when its lawyers found the lengths to which the company went to try to kill off Virgin. BA had a legal bill of up to £3m, damages to Branson of £500,000 and a further £110,000 to his airline. Branson divided his £500,000 among staff, each receiving £166.[11][12]

Boeing 747-400 taking off

The "London Air Traffic Distribution Rules"
The London Air Traffic Distribution Rules came into effect on 1 April 1978 and were applied from the beginning of April 1977. They were to achieve a "fairer" distribution of traffic between Heathrow and Gatwick, the UK’s two main international airports, to help Gatwick make a profit. The rules said airlines without an international scheduled service from Heathrow prior to 1 April 1977 would not be permitted operations there. Instead, they would use Gatwick. However, airlines that did not already operate at Heathrow could commence domestic scheduled services there provided BAA, which ran both Heathrow and Gatwick on behalf of the Government, and the Secretary of State for Transport, granted permission. London Air Traffic Distribution Rules banned all new all-cargo as well as all charter flights from Heathrow as of 1 April 1978.

Virgin Atlantic Airbus A340-300 In the 1990s, Virgin Atlantic jets were painted with "No-Way BA/AA" in opposition to the attempted merger between British Airways and American Airlines. In 1997,


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following British Airways’ announcement that it was to remove the Union Flag from its tailfins in favour of world images, Virgin introduced a union flag design on the winglets of its aircraft and changed the red dress on the Scarlet Lady on the nose of aircraft to the union flag with the tag line "Britain’s Flag Carrier". This was a tongue-in-cheek challenge to BA’s traditional role as the UK’s flag carrier.[13] Relations with British Airways improved with the arrival of Rod Eddington as BA CEO though rivalry continued. Eddington replaced Robert Ayling, involved in the dirty tricks affair, who was dismissed by Lord Marshall, the long-serving BA chairman and Ayling’s mentor, on behalf of BA’s main institutional shareholders after BA had its first net loss since privatisation during Ayling’s time during its 1999/2000 financial year. In June 2006, a tip-off from Virgin Atlantic led US and UK competition authorities to investigate alleged price-fixing between Virgin Atlantic and British Airways.[14] In August 2007, BA was fined £271 million by the UK’s Office of Fair Trading and the US Department of Justice though this was upheld on account of a guilty plea.[15] Virgin Atlantic was not fined as it was given immunity for reporting the cartel to regulators. The animosity between the two airlines continues. In 2007 it was revealed that BA had edited its in-flight version of the James Bond movie Casino Royale, removing a brief cameo appearance from Richard Branson and shots of a Virgin tail fin.[16]

Virgin Atlantic Airways

Airline partners
In addition to the above airlines, Virgin Atlantic has partnership alliances with[18]: • Air New Zealand • All Nippon Airways • Gulf Air • Hawaiian Airlines • LIAT • Malaysian Airlines • Scandinavian Airlines • US Airways

Virgin’s involvement with Lufthansa’s talks on BMI’s future may lead to a possible merger on parts of the airlines’ operations - this may well lead to Virgin’s entrance into the Star Alliance to counter its major rival, Oneworld alliance’s strong presence on the very lucrative LHR-JFK route. In fact Virgin already has codeshare and/or partnership agreements with nine of the Star Alliance members, while having none with Oneworld members and one with one SkyTeam member (Continental Airlines).

Virgin Atlantic’s fleet uses both Airbus and Boeing aircraft, with an average age of 6.7 years as of March 2008.[19] Boeing 747-400s are used on all routes from Gatwick and Manchester. Boeing 747s and Airbus A340s are used interchangeably on routes from Heathrow. In addition to Airbus A340-600 aircraft still on order, Virgin Atlantic has orders for Boeing 787-9 and Airbus A380-800 aircraft for delivery beginning 2011 and 2013, respectively. The A380 was expected in service in 2006 but was delayed until 2009 because of problems within Airbus. Virgin deferred its order to 2013, arguing it wanted the aircraft to prove itself before it put its own into operation.[20]

75% of Virgin’s flights operate from London Heathrow, with most of the remainder from London Gatwick and Manchester Airport with one seasonal flight from Glasgow International Airport.

Codeshare agreements
Virgin Atlantic has codeshare agreements with the following airlines[17]: • • • • Air China Air Jamaica BMI Continental Airlines • Jet Airways • Singapore Airlines • South African Airways • Virgin Blue

Airbus A340 in maintenance


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The order for 15 787-9s, with options on eight more and purchase rights on 20 more, was announced on April 24, 2007. The aircraft will replace Virgin’s older A340-300s.[21] Virgin has listed Seattle, Vancouver, Bangkok, and Melbourne as possible destinations for the aircraft, saying the 787 would make possible non-stop operations from London to Perth, Australia and Honolulu, Hawaii .[22] Virgin is negotiating with Boeing and Airbus over an order for ten wide-bodied jets for the Gatwick fleet. This could be a new order for the Boeing 747-8 or for additional Airbus A380-800s. Deliveries are expected in 2012, in time for the 2012 London Olympics.[23]

Virgin Atlantic Airways
Virgin Atlantic’s 21st birthday. The Scarlet Lady was enlarged and moved to the rear of the aircraft, a Boeing 747-400, and the aircraft was temporarily renamed Birthday Girl.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 747-400 in current (2009) colours takes off from Manchester Airport, England On September 27, 2006 Branson announced plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by cutting aircraft weight and fuel consumption. There was also an experiment to have aircraft towed to the runway to save fuel, but this has not resulted in a change of operational procedures.[24] Boeing 747-400 Lady Penelope special paint scheme. The Scarlet Lady has been enlarged and moved to the back of the aircraft Virgin’s aircraft are painted in a red and silver livery introduced in October 2006 with the delivery of G-VRED. It will adorn the entire fleet. Near the nose of each aircraft is a pinup girl designed by British artist Ken White, called Scarlet Lady. White modeled the motif on the World War II pin-ups of Alberto Vargas — hence the naming one of the fleet Varga Girl. The motif was updated with the addition of the 1999 Silver livery. Each carries a Union Flag. The names are usually feminine, such as Ladybird, Island Lady and Ruby Tuesday, but some are linked to registrations (e.g. G-VFIZ—Bubbles). There are a couple of commemorative names (e.g. GVEIL—Queen of the Skies—which was named by Queen Elizabeth II on 7 April 2004 in celebration of the centenary of the Entente Cordiale). An exception is The Spirit of Sir Freddie. An early Boeing 747, it was named in honour of Freddie Laker of Laker Airways, who helped Virgin Atlantic run following the demise of his own airline. G-VFAB—Lady Penelope—gained special livery to celebrate

Virgin Atlantic Airbus A340-600 G-VYOU Emmeline Heaney Two Virgin Atlantic aircraft are featured in the James Bond film, Casino Royale. One Airbus A340-600 (G-VWIN) and one Boeing 747-400-along with Branson and Virgin Atlantic crew—are part of a scene at Miami International Airport (the sequence was filmed at Ruzyně International Airport in Prague).[25] Virgin Atlantic’s relationship with the James Bond franchise continues in Quantum Of Solace, where James Bond and René Mathis travel to La Paz, Bolivia on board Virgin Atlantic, in Upper Class.


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Virgin Atlantic Airways

Virgin Atlantic’s fleet consists of the following aircraft as of December 2008:[19] Aircraft Total Orders Options Passengers Engines
(Upper/ Premium Economy/ Economy)

Entry Into Service

Airbus 6 A340-300



240 (34/35/ 171)

CFM 1993 CFM56-5C

Airbus A340-600



3 ( 3 2

Airbus 0 A380-800 Boeing 747-400 13





2013 "The Rolls - Virgin training centre Base" Royce Trent 900 drinks and a free amenity kit. Seats have a 452 (14/58/ General pitch of 31 To be sold, Boeing 0 15 8 maximum seat 1994 cm (depending on 380) Electric replacemet the aircraft type). In addition, updated787-9 eco451 (14/58/ CF6-80 have adjustable lumbar support, aircraftnomy seats 379) A380-800. and are being installed across Virgin At344 (54/62/ lantic’s fleet. 228)


Premium Economy

In the past, Virgin Atlantic has operated a variety of aircraft. Its retired fleet consists of: Aircraft Total Notes Airbus A320 Airbus A321 Boeing 747-100 4 2 1 Operated by Virgin Sun. Operated by Virgin Sun. G-VMIA named ’Spirit of Sir Freddie’ after airline legend Sir Freddie Laker. G-VIRG was Virgin’s first aircraft. Operated for Virgin by British United Air Ferries.

Boeing 747-200


Vickers 4 Viscount

Premium Economy has a separate check-in area, priority boarding ahead of Economy passengers, a wider seat with more legroom than Economy, and additional cabin services such as a preflight drink and dedicated cabin crew. As with Economy, in November 2006, Virgin launched an updated product with a wider seat that also supplies laptop power. It is being installed across the fleet starting with Heathrow-based A340 aircraft. As of April 2009 all Airbus A340s and Heathrow Boeing 747s have the new product. The 747s based at Heathrow have an updated configuration of 62 seats all located downstairs.[26] The upper deck on London Gatwick Boeing 747s is entirely Premium Economy (the original seats), with a further two Premium Economy rows downstairs (the wash seats), between Upper Class and Economy. Upstairs on these planes have the[27]

All Virgin Atlantic aircraft are in a three-class configuration with Economy, Premium Economy, and Upper Class cabins.

Upper Class
Upper Class is the equivalent of business class on all Virgin Atlantic Airways’ flights. Virgin does not offer a traditional First Class cabin service.[28] The Upper Class seat is claimed by the airline to be the biggest fully flat bed of any airline’s business class service (it is approximately 202 cm long and 84 cm wide), however Air Canada and Singapore Airlines have made similar claims.[29] The

Economy is the standard coach class of Virgin Atlantic and has fairly standard amenities for a Legacy carrier, such as free meals and


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seat offers in-seat laptop power and power leads for iPods and Upper Class passengers have access to a chauffeur, drive thru checkin and private security channel (at some airports), the clubhouse (lounge), a larger menu than that of Premium Economy and Economy passengers and an in-flight bar.

Virgin Atlantic Airways
• On 8 February 2005, onboard an Airbus A340-600 aircraft (G-VATL) en route from Hong Kong to London, the fuel control computer system caused a loss of automatic fuel transfer between tanks. The left outboard engine lost power, and shortly after the right outboard engine also began to falter until the crew began crossfeeding fuel manually. The crew diverted to Amsterdam, where a safe landing was made. The interim accident report made four safety recommendations addressed to the primary certification bodies for large transport category aircraft (EASA and the FAA), advising on the need for a low fuel warning system for large aircraft.[31]

In-flight entertainment
All Virgin Atlantic aircraft offer personal seat-back televisions that provide entertainment channels. Certain aircraft (some 747-400s, one A340-300–G-VSUN–, and all A340-600s) have an Audio/Video on Demand (AVOD) system called V:Port. Older "Odyssey" and "Super Nova" IFE systems can be found on aircraft in the fleet. They both have smaller screens and display audio and video on a loop rather than broadcasting on demand.

Over the years, Virgin has used many slogans, including: • Written on the back of the Airbus A340-600s because they are the longest passenger aircraft in the world[32] • Originally an Airbus slogan when newer versions of the A340 were built until Virgin inherited the slogan. The slogan was written on the engines of the planes, because all Virgin’s planes at the time had four engines as opposed to BA’s long haul twin-jet Boeing 777s and Boeing 767s. The slogan was removed in 2006 because it "had run its course and it was time to move on"—Virgin would later order Boeing 787 twin-jet aircraft in 2007. • Used in the late 1990s on several 747-400s to express Branson’s displeasure with the proposed British Airways/American Airlines partnership. BA/AA combined held 100% market share on several US-UK routes (e.g. DallasFort Worth to London), and a market share of more than 50% in several more (e.g. Chicago to London, JFK to London). The slogan was brought back starting in September 2008 after merger talks between British Airways, Iberia Airlines and American Airlines began.[33] • Others Include: "More experience than the name suggests," "Virgin, seeks travel companion(s)," "Love at first flight," "You never forget your first time," "Extra inches where it

Incidents and accidents

Airbus A340-600 at Tokyo-Narita • On 5 November 1997, after numerous attempts to shake free the jammed main landing gear of an Airbus A340-300 GVSKY failed, the aircraft made an emergency landing at London Heathrow Airport. The aircraft sustained major damage to the undersides of engines 1, 2 and 4 which made contact with the runway surface during landing. The runway surface was also damaged and several runway lights were broken as the right main landing gear wheels broke up during the deceleration. The aircraft was evacuated safely, with two crew members and five passengers sustaining minor injuries during the evacuation.[30]


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counts," "Fly a younger fleet," "One call does it all," "Hello gorgeous", "We’re better by four" and, in a campaign featuring Austin Powers, "There’s only one Virgin on this Tshirt (or bus, etc.) baby," and "Twice a day to London" in which Austin Powers is seen riding on the fuselage of a Virgin Atlantic 747. During that time G-VTOP was temporarily named "Austin Powered".

Virgin Atlantic Airways

[8] "First biofuel flight touches down". 7261214.stm. Retrieved on 2008-02-24. [9] ^ Losing my Virginity - The Autobiography., Branson, R., Virgin Books Ltd., London, 2006 (2nd reprint), p. 362 [10] "Operation of the UK Traffic Distribution Rules in relation to all-cargo services at London Heathrow Airport" (PDF). BAA Heathrow. UserFiles/File/ • Gregory, Martyn. Dirty Tricks: British BAA%20TDR%20consultation%20paper%20_LHR.pd Airways’ Secret War Against Virgin Retrieved on 2009-02-12. Atlantic. New York: Virgin, 2000. ISBN [11], 11 January, 1993 - BA dirty 0-7535-0458-8 tricks against Virgin cost £3m • Bower, Tom. Branson. UK: Fourth Estate, [12] ISBN 1-84115-400-8 lets-screw-it/ • Branson, Richard (2006 [2nd reprint]). [13] Virgin’s battle of Britain with BA BBC Losing my Virginity - The Autobiography. News. 7 June 1999 London, UK: Virgin Books Ltd.. ISBN [14] Virgin tip-off ’led to BA probe’ BBC 0-7535-1020-0. News. 23 June 2006 [15] US judge upholds BA’s $300m fine BBC News. 23 August 2007 [16], 21 April, 2007 - BA cuts • Virgin America Branson from Bond movie • Virgin Blue [17] Virgin Atlantic - Our Destinations • Virgin Express Codeshare Destinations • Virgin Galactic [18] Virgin Atlantic Airways - Flying Club • Virgin Nigeria Airways Partner Airlines • Virgin Sun [19] ^ "Virgin Atlantic fleet". • Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer • V Australia Virgin%20Atlantic.htm. Retrieved on 2008-03-10. [20] Goldstein, Steve (October 26, 2006). [1] UK CAA Fleet Database - Virgin Atlantic "Virgin Atlantic to delay A380 deliveries [2] "Our Offices Around the World." Virgin until 2013". Dow Jones MarketWatch. Atlantic. Retrieved on 19 May 2009. [3] Operating Licence Story/ [4] "Virgin Atlantic Airways – Company Story.aspx?dist=newsfinder&siteid=mktw&guid=%7 Overview" (PDF). Virgin Atlantic Retrieved on 2006-10-26. Airways. [21] "Virgin Reveals Dreamliner order". tridion/images/ Airliner World: p. 4. June 2007. factsheetcompanyoverview_tcm5-426059.pdf. [22] Virgin Atlantic Press Release dated 24 Retrieved on 2008-04-03. April 2007 [5] West Sussex County Times, Friday, [23], 18 October, 2007 - Virgin January 20, 1984 Page 1 Atlantic In Talks Over 10 Long-haul [6] "2003 UK Airline Statistics". UK CAA. Planes [24] [1] default.aspx?catid=80&pagetype=88&sglid=1&fld=2003Annual. [25] "James Bond Seeks Out Virgin Atlantic Retrieved on 2008-03-09. for "Casino Royale" Assignment," Virgin [7] "2006 UK Airline Statistics". UK CAA. Atlantic press release, 4 July 2006. [26] Virgin Atlantic 747-400 seating default.aspx?catid=80&pagetype=88&sglid=1&fld=2006Annual.Retrieved on October configuration 3. Retrieved on 2008-03-09. 20, 2007.

Further reading

See also



From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
[27] Virgin Atlantic 747-400 seating configuration 1. Retrieved on September 5, 2008. [28] Expedia Travel Manager Resource Center [29] Singapore Airlines "The largest full-flat bed in Business Class" [30] "Report on the accident to Airbus A340-311, G-VSKY, at London Heathrow Airport on 5 November 1997". UK AAIB. formal_reports/4_2000__g_vsky.cfm. Retrieved on 2009-03-14. [31] "Airbus A340-642, G-VATL". UK AAIB. bulletins/february_2006/

Virgin Atlantic Airways
airbus_a340_642__g_vatl.cfm. Retrieved on 2007-07-26. [32] Image of G-VSHY in 2002 with slogan Mine’s Bigger Than Yours [33] Wardell, Jane (2008-09-12). "Virgin attempts to block BA-American-Iberia deal". Forbes. feeds/ap/2008/09/12/ap5416723.html. Retrieved on 2008-09-16.

External links
• • • • • Official website V-Flyer Customer-created site Fleet Age Fleet Detail Photos of Virgin Atlantic Airways aircraft

Retrieved from "" Categories: Airlines of the United Kingdom, Airlines established in 1984, Virgin Group, IATA members, Association of European Airlines members, Companies established in 1984, British Air Transport Association, British brands, Price fixing convictions, Privately held companies of the United Kingdom, Companies based in West Sussex This page was last modified on 23 May 2009, at 15:01 (UTC). All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License. (See Copyrights for details.) Wikipedia® is a registered trademark of the Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., a U.S. registered 501(c)(3) taxdeductible nonprofit charity. Privacy policy About Wikipedia Disclaimers


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