• Virgin Atlantic’s first flight flew from London Gatwick to Newark, New Jersey in June 1984

  • Anniversary marks four decades of industry firsts, including first ever seat back TVs and invention of Premium economy cabin

  • Airline will return to Canada for the first time in more than a decade, with daily flights between London Heathrow and Toronto

  • New services between Manchester and Las Vegas underpin airline’s commitment to North America


Born to be different


Forty years ago, a £99 ticket from London to Newark on a second hand 747 marked the beginnings of Virgin Atlantic.  21 million glasses of champagne, 7,000 cabin crew and five uniform designs later, Virgin Atlantic is celebrating its Ruby Anniversary.


Sir Richard Branson founded Virgin Atlantic with a vision to shake up the aviation industry by offering something unique and exciting to challenge the status quo that existed. 


We’re simply not Virgin without the Atlantic


From its very first flight from Gatwick to Newark, Virgin Atlantic’s origins have been rooted in North America.  Today, it’s celebrating the launch of its 15th service to the USA, as it commences flights between Manchester and Las Vegas. The new service complements the airline’s existing daily flying to Las Vegas from London Heathrow, as the airline expands its network and supports customer demand for premium leisure travel from Manchester and the northwest.


Virgin Atlantic is also delighted to announce its return to Canada.  The airline’s first route to the country in more than a decade will commence next summer, as it launches direct flights between London Heathrow and Toronto Pearson International Airport, marking the airline’s expansion in North America and into Canada’s financial hub.  The daily service will launch on 30 March, 2025 with fares starting from £490 per person. 


Flights will operate a mix of aircraft on the route including the A330-900neo, the latest addition to its young fleet. Featuring the airline’s Retreat Suite, iconic onboard social space, wireless charging, and stylish design touches.  The new service is set to connect two global financial hubs and provides optimal connectivity to for Virgin Atlantic’s Indian customers via London, from newly launched destination Bengaluru, alongside Mumbai and Delhi, which both operate twice daily.


In addition, Virgin Atlantic is announcing its expanded codeshare partnership with Canadian carrier WestJet, which is slated for October this year. The partnership will allow Canadian customers to travel seamlessly throughout the region, including flights from Ottawa and Winnipeg. Benefits for both airlines’ frequent flyers are expected to follow in 2025. 


The red thread sets us apart


For 40 years, Virgin Atlantic has been innovating for customers, offering a different experience delivered by its amazing people, driving competition and choice. From the introduction of onboard bars, creating the concept of the Premium cabin, pioneering the world’s flight seat back TVs and even setting up charity donations with loose foreign currency – a scheme that’s since been adopted globally. 


More recently, Virgin Atlantic has underpinned its belief that ‘everyone can take on the world’ with industry leading changes for its people, who, along with its customers, are encouraged to live by the ‘Be Yourself’ mantra.  It was first airline to scrap make up requirements for cabin crew, allow visible tattoos and let its people decide which version of the iconic Vivienne Westwood uniform best represents them.  


Business as a Force for Good


The airline has taken a leadership position on decarbonising aviation for more than 15 years, taking early action to optimise the efficiency of its fleet and it is committed to achieving net zero by 2050. It operated the historic Flight100, the first transatlantic flight on 100% Sustainable Aviation Fuel last November. The flight marked the culmination of a year of radical collaboration with a consortium of partners, to demonstrate the capability of SAF as a safe drop-in replacement for fossil derived jet fuel, compatible with today’s engines, airframes and fuel infrastructure. Results, which are now available as open source, demonstrate that the use of 100% SAF saved the lifecycle equivalent of 64% of the emissions of a standard London Heathrow to New York JFK flight. It also proves that SAF has potential benefits beyond a reduction in lifecycle CO2, including a 40% reduction in particulates.


The next forty


The USA and Caribbean remains Virgin Atlantic heartland, and it’s expanding into new territories too. From 2025, it will offer over a million seats to India for the first time, a 350% capacity growth since 2019. Meanwhile, Virgin Atlantic Holidays has set ambitious targets to achieve its vision of becoming the most loved travel company with its premium holiday proposition. It aims to reclaim its number one spot in Florida, focusing on Orlando, Tampa and Miami by partnering with Disney and Universal and introducing multi-centre holidays. It’s set on becoming the preferred choice for customers travelling to premium sun destinations focusing on the Caribbean, Maldives and Dubai. Online, it will offer an enhanced experience for customers and increase online bookings for city breaks to destinations such as Las Vegas and New York City.


This year, Virgin Atlantic has received three new state of the art aircraft, two Airbus A350s, from a total of 13 and one Airbus 330neo, from an order of up to 16, with the most recent, Ruby Rebel (G-VSRB), named in homage to Sir Richard Branson and his rebellious spirit.  A further three Airbus A330neo’s will join later this year.


Sir Richard Branson, Founder, Virgin Atlantic, commented;


“When starting Virgin Atlantic 40 years ago, I went against everyone’s advice. Friends, experts, the press, the pundits – and on paper, they were right. Back then, travelling by plane wasn’t a fun experience, but airlines were allowed to get away with it as no real competition existed.  I realised then that there was a gap to give passengers a great experience – and I love a challenge. The result was our ruby red airline, that shook up aviation. 


“Since then, there have been many occasions where people told me we’d fail. But we kept the same belief then that I had in 1984 - if you can create something that's much better than what everybody else is offering, then you have at least a chance of succeeding.


“From 1984 to 2024, it’s our people who make me the proudest. They are much more than just a workforce; they are what makes Virgin Atlantic special. They’re the red thread that keeps us all together and I know they will continue to look after our customers for the next 40 years and beyond.”


Shai Weiss, CEO, Virgin Atlantic, commented;


Richard is the original entrepreneur, who brought a pioneering new approach to air travel in 1984, bringing much-needed competition to the skies. 40 years later and while we have evolved from a challenger to a leader, the same things set us apart. Today we’re looking ahead to the future and the red thread we’ll carry forward. Our people are our superpower, and their ruby red spirit is stronger than ever. Our customers mean the world to us and we exist to make them smile, it’s that simple. We’ll continue to make aviation a better place for everyone, as intended since day one.”




For further information please contact the Virgin Atlantic press office on +441293 747373 or email      


About Virgin Atlantic            

Virgin Atlantic was founded by entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson in 1984, with innovation and amazing customer service at its core. In 2023, Virgin Atlantic was voted Britain’s only Global Five Star Airline by APEX for the seventh year running in the Official Airline Ratings. Headquartered in London, it employs more than 8,500 people worldwide, flying customers to 30 destinations across four continents throughout the year.    


Alongside shareholder and Joint Venture partner Delta Air Lines, Virgin Atlantic operates a leading transatlantic network, with onward connections to over 200 cities around the world. In February 2020, Air France-KLM, Delta Air Lines and Virgin Atlantic launched an expanded Joint Venture, offering a comprehensive route network, convenient flight schedules, competitive fares and reciprocal frequent flyer benefits, including the ability to earn and redeem miles across all carriers.  Virgin Atlantic joined SkyTeam in March 2023 as the global airline alliance’s first and only UK member airline, enhancing the alliance’s transatlantic network and services to and from Heathrow and Manchester Airport.      


Virgin Atlantic has been pioneering sustainability leadership for more than 15 years, committing to Net Zero by 2050 and continuous action that reduces environmental impact.  The airline operates one of the youngest and most fuel-efficient fleets in the skies, with an average age under seven years. In October 2022, Virgin Atlantic welcomed the first of 16 A330-900neos to the fleet, continuing its transformation towards 100% next generation aircraft by 2028.  In November 2023, the airline led a consortium to deliver the world’s first flight across the Atlantic on 100% Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF), demonstrating that 100% SAF can be used safely as a drop in fuel in existing infrastructure, engines and airframes. The need to scale production is an industry imperative and Virgin Atlantic is committed to radical collaboration across the energy chain to support commercialisation ahead of 2030.     


For more information visit or via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @virginatlantic.    

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