Company Description

General Information

Since it was founded in 1984, Virgin Atlantic Airways has become Britain’s second largest carrier serving the world’s major cities. Now based at both London’s Gatwick and Heathrow airports, it operates long haul services to thirty destinations world-wide as far apart as Las Vegas and Shanghai.
Virgin Atlantic has enjoyed huge popularity, winning top business, consumer and trade awards from around the world. The airline has pioneered a range of innovations setting new standards of service, which its competitors have subsequently sought to follow. Despite Virgin Atlantic’s growth the service still remains customer driven with an emphasis on value for money, quality, fun and innovation. Virgin Atlantic has carried around 53m passengers since it began operations and now employs almost 9000 people worldwide.

Company History

The history of Virgin Atlantic can be traced back to 1982 when a man named Randolph Fields, an American lawyer set up Laker Airways along with a pilot named Alan Hellary. The idea was born from Fields concept of setting up an airline operating from the Falkland Islands to London after January 1982. This is when the conflict between the United Kingdom and Argentina had ended. According to Fields, Hellary had also come up with the concept of setting up an airline operating from the Falkland Islands to London at the same time as him.

The idea never got off the ground however, as it was discovered that the runway at Port Stanley in the Falklands Islands was too short to cater for the type of aircraft that would need to be used. The men then concentrated their ideas towards obtaining a license to operate an airline from London Gatwick to JFK Airport. Unfortunately the idea was rejected after a three-day hearing, due to objections raised by BAA and the airline British Caledonian.


The two failures did not deter the men however, and they then moved on to trying to secure a license to operate from London Gatwick to the Newark Liberty International Airport located near New York City. This idea also had to be put on hold due to a low cost airline named People Express that was running a similar service at Newark. Just as things were looking bleak and the men were running out of ideas Fields stumbled across a man who was to transform his plans.

At a party in Central London Fields men Richard Branson who he asked to help him get his airline idea off the ground. He offered a partnership with the British born businessman and dropped his share to 25% upon which the airline was renamed Virgin Atlantic. Fields was placed in the position of chairman by Branson. The partnership with Branson did not go well with Fields disagreeing on many issues of operating procedure. As a result an offer to be bought out of his 25% share for £1 million was accepted by him. The money was issued through the High Court, however was not very timely as not long after payment was received Fields died from cancer in 1997. However, even today, his immediate family still have Upper Class flying privileges.

it was in 1984 that Virgin Atlantic first started operating in the guise that we are all familiar with. The first scheduled flight by the airline was between Gatwick Airport and Newark Liberty with a Boeing 747-200 that had been leased, it had been previously been operated by Aerolineas Argentinas. Fortunately the airline made a profit in its first year, due mainly to Branson's Virgin Records business being able to make up any deficit and fund the lease of another Boeing 747 aircraft. The timing of the flights was also key as they began at the start of the 'summer rush' ensuring profit could be maximized.


Virgin Atlantic is 51% owned by the Virgin Group and 49% owned by Singapore Airlines. On 20 December 1999 Richard Branson signed an agreement to sell a 49% stake of Virgin Atlantic to Singapore Airlines to form a unique global partnership. The cost of the transaction to Singapore Airlines was £600.25 million, which included a capital injection of £49 million and valued Virgin Atlantic at a minimum of £1.225billion. The deal was finalized in early 2000.

Aircraft Orders and Fleet

Virgin Atlantic currently has a fleet of 38 aircraft, which includes thirteen Boeing 747s and six Airbus 340-300s and nineteen Airbus A340-600s.
The airline announced in March 2007 the order of 15 of the 787-9 Dream liners – with options on ordering another eight 787-9 and purchase rights on a further 20 aircraft. The order will see Virgin Atlantic take delivery of its new planes between 2011 and 2014. The airline also has six A380 aircraft on order until 2013.


Aircraft Total Orders
Airbus A330-300 2 8
Airbus A340-300 6 -
Airbus A340-600 19 -
Airbus A380-800 - 6
Boeing 747-400 12 -
Boeing 787-9 - 15
TOTAL 39 29


Now based at London’s Heathrow and Gatwick airports and Manchester, it operates long haul services from Heathrow to New York (Newark and JFK), Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington, Boston, Miami, Chicago, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Johannesburg, Cape Town, Nairobi, Shanghai, Delhi, Mumbai, Lagos, Mauritius, Sydney and Dubai. Virgin also operates services from Gatwick to Orlando, Barbados, St Lucia, Antigua, Las Vegas, Grenada, Tobago, Cuba, Montego Bay and Kingston. Virgin Atlantic also operates a service from Manchester to Orlando, Barbados and St Lucia.

Virgin Atlantic’s thirty routes worldwide are broken down as follows:

  • 10 - US
  • 6 - Asia Pacific
  • 4 - African routes
  • 1 - Indian Ocean
  • 1 - Middle East
  • 8 - Caribbean destinations