Why Virgin Atlantic is an Airline for Valentines

Ever wonder how an airline is born? Well, fortunately conception doesn’t always begin with bean counters in a boardroom. (Don’t even picture that!)

Sometimes it’s a “Boy meets girl meets airplane” tale about how love can conquer a flight cancellation and lead to the birth of an airline. Enter Virgin Atlantic.

More than 30 years ago, Sir Richard Branson wound up stuck at the airport in Puerto Rico. His flight to the British Virgin Islands had been cancelled because it wasn’t full. So he and his fellow passengers were SOL. But Branson didn’t want to keep his beautiful valentine waiting. (Disclosure of poetic license: Virgin Atlantic has not disclosed the date, but it may not have been Valentine’s Day.) So the high-flying owner of Virgin Records did what any young lover with means might do. He chartered a plane to fly from Puerto Rico to the BVI where his boo, Joan Templeton, waited. Since he wasn’t the only one stuck, Branson borrowed a blackboard and jotted down: “Virgin Atlantic, $39 one-way to BVI.” He approached his fellow flight refugees with his “sign” and quickly filled up his first plane. Fed up by rude airlines, Branson thought, Damn it, we can do better. He dialed Boeing to ask whether they had “any second-hand 747s for sale.” He expected Boeing to hang up, but it didn’t. And Virgin Atlantic had wings.

RB in cabin with family - launch of airline

Sir Richard Branson accompanied on the inaugural flight by his wife, Joan and their daughter, Holly.

The inaugural flight on June 22, 1984, was from Gatwick Airport to Newark International Airport. By then Branson was married to Joan, the girl he had chartered a plane to see. RB with cabin crew - launch of airline in 1984 This week Virgin Atlantic has shared its romantic roots on Facebook and Twitter and ask followers for their tales. Here are some lovebirds Virgin Atlantic has helped:

Nick wrote a note to Michelle on a napkin asking her to be his girlfriend on a flight to London. Many flights later Michelle flew to London with her wedding dress. (But were they strangers on a plane? Or did he know her when they boarded. If they were strangers, I need to start flying Virgin to London more often.) VA-napkin_love_story_tweet

Jaime and Ed met on a vacation in Spain, and over the last six years they have flown more than 50 transatlantic flights to be together.

Jonathan met his main squeeze, Stephanie, on a flight. “The lady at check-in did me a favor because when she asked ‘window or aisle seat?’, I said: ‘I’ll sit next to her please,’ ” wrote Jonathan.

@TyFrancis was engaged to New Yorker @Alayna 91 days after they met. And he practically lived on Virgin Atlantic commuting to his boo.

TyFrancis flight stubs

Beyond love, Virgin frequently implements new technology. It pioneered in-flight entertainment options like seat back videos. And Virgin loves to develop unique services, such as chauffeur-driven options to and from the airport for qualifying upper class passengers.

Last October, Virgin Atlantic began flying its first Boeing Dreamliner 787-9.  The Dreamliner flies between London Heathrow and Boston’s Logan International Airport. A second 787-9 began flying in January on Virgin’s London/Washington, D.C. route. By 2018, Virgin Atlantic expects to have 21 Dreamliners in its fleet.

VirginAtlantic Dreamliner

With its sister companies, Virgin Australia and Virgin America, Virgin Atlantic flies 32 million passengers a year.

Has Virgin Atlantic or another airline helped kindle romantic fires for you? Let us know here or via @BreakingModern.

For BMod, I’m Terry Gardner.

Image credits: Virgin Atlantic 

Terry Gardner

Author: Terry Gardner

Based in Santa Monica, CA, Terry Gardner is a freelance journalist whose passion for travel, scuba diving and the environment led to a career as a travel journalist. She blogs for various websites, including the Los Angeles Times Travel & Deal blog and Huffington Post. Terry's website is www.terrytravels.com. Her Twitter and Facebook handles are terrytravels1.

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