Ruby Anniversary: Virgin Atlantic Celebrates 40 Years of Flight

View of logo on Virgin Atlantic A330neo Ruby Rebel
Photo Credit: Virgin Atlantic

Virgin Atlantic takes to the skies for its 40th birthday, marking a journey rich with innovation and a commitment to a superior customer experience.

From its humble beginnings with a £99 ticket to Newark on a used 747, the airline has grown into a formidable force, celebrating this milestone with the moniker “Ruby Anniversary.”

Sir Richard Branson, the visionary founder, set out to shake up the aviation industry. He envisioned an airline that offered something refreshing and exciting, a stark contrast to the status quo.

Rooted in the Atlantic, Reaching New Horizons

Virgin Atlantic’s story began with a flight from Gatwick to Newark, solidifying its North American roots.

Today, it commemorates this legacy by launching its 15th service to the USA – a new route connecting Manchester and Las Vegas., CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

This complements existing daily flights from London Heathrow, catering to the growing demand for premium leisure travel from the North West.

Virgin Atlantic’s wings are spreading further. Next summer, the airline will return to Canada with direct flights between London Heathrow and Toronto Pearson International Airport.

This marks not just North American expansion, but also a connection to Canada’s financial hub. The daily service kicks off on March 30th, 2025, with fares starting from £490.

Passengers can expect a comfortable journey on a mix of aircraft, including the A330-900neo, boasting the airline’s signature Retreat Suite, a beloved onboard social space, wireless charging, and stylish design elements.

This new service connects global financial centers and offers optimal connectivity to Virgin Atlantic’s Indian destinations (Bengaluru, Mumbai, and Delhi) via London.

The partnership with Canadian carrier WestJet, slated for October 2024, will further enhance connectivity.

This codeshare agreement allows seamless travel for Canadian customers, including flights from Ottawa and Winnipeg. Benefits for frequent flyers of both airlines are expected to follow in 2025.

British Airways A350 & Virgin 787: Collision at London Heathrow

The Unmistakable Red Thread: A Culture of Innovation

For four decades, Virgin Atlantic has consistently pushed boundaries to elevate the customer experience.

This dedication is evident in a series of industry-firsts – onboard bars, the premium cabin concept, pioneering flight seat back TVs, and even a charity initiative utilizing loose change (a program adopted globally).

Virgin Atlantic champions the philosophy of “everyone can take on the world.” This translates to industry-leading changes for its people, who, alongside customers, are encouraged to embrace the “Be Yourself” mantra.

The airline became the first to scrap makeup requirements for cabin crew, allow visible tattoos, and empower its employees to choose their preferred version of the iconic Vivienne Westwood uniform.

Photo Credit: Virgin Atlantic

A Force for Good in the Skies

Virgin Atlantic has been a leader in sustainable aviation for over 15 years, actively optimizing fleet efficiency and pursuing net-zero emissions by 2050.

Last November, they operated the historic Flight100, the first transatlantic flight powered entirely by Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF).

This flight marked the culmination of a collaborative effort to demonstrate the viability of SAF as a substitute for fossil fuels.

The open-source results showcase a 64% lifecycle emission reduction compared to a standard London Heathrow-New York JFK flight, along with potential benefits like a 40% reduction in particulates.

Virgin Atlantic personnel with Flight100 aircraft
Photo Credit: Virgin Atlantic

The Next 40 Years: A Legacy of Progress

The USA and Caribbean remain Virgin Atlantic’s core market, while expansion into new territories is underway.

From 2025, the airline will offer over a million seats to India, a significant 350% capacity increase since 2019. Virgin Atlantic Holidays also has ambitious plans to become the most beloved travel company with its premium holiday packages.

Reclaiming the top spot in Florida (Orlando, Tampa, and Miami) through partnerships with Disney and Universal, as well as introducing multi-center holidays, is a key goal.

The airline aims to be the preferred choice for premium sun destinations like the Caribbean, Maldives, and Dubai.


Online enhancements will provide a smoother customer experience and encourage bookings for city breaks to destinations like Las Vegas and New York City.

This year, Virgin Atlantic welcomed three new state-of-the-art aircraft – two Airbus A350s and one Airbus A330neo.

The newest addition, “Ruby Rebel” (G-VSRB), named after Sir Richard Branson himself, embodying his rebellious spirit. Three more Airbus A330neos are expected to join the fleet later this year.

Quotes from the Leaders

Sir Richard Branson, Founder, Virgin Atlantic: “Forty years ago, everyone advised against starting Virgin Atlantic. Friends, experts, the media – they were right, on paper.”

“Back then, flying wasn’t enjoyable, but airlines got away with it due to a lack of competition. I saw an opportunity to provide a fantastic experience for passengers – a challenge I relish. Virgin Atlantic, our ruby red airline, was born from that vision, and it shook up the aviation industry.”

“There have been many moments when people doubted our success. But we’ve held onto the same belief I had in 1984: if you create something demonstrably better than what exists, you have a fighting chance.”

“From 1984 to 2024, it’s our people who fill me with the most pride. They’re more than just employees; they’re the soul of Virgin Atlantic.”

“They’re the red thread that binds us, and I have no doubt they’ll continue to care for our customers for the next 40 years and beyond.”

Virgin Atlantic A330neo with the "Queen of the Skies" sticker.

Shai Weiss, CEO, Virgin Atlantic: “Richard, the original entrepreneur, brought a revolutionary approach to air travel in 1984, injecting much-needed competition into the skies.”

“40 years on, we’ve evolved from challenger to leader, but the core elements that set us apart remain. Today, we look towards the future, carrying forward the red thread. Our people are our superpower, and their ruby red spirit burns brighter than ever.”

“Our customers are at the heart of everything we do; we exist to make them smile, that’s simple. We’ll keep striving to make aviation a better place for everyone, just as we intended from day one.”

Virgin Atlantic’s ruby anniversary celebrates a commitment to innovation, customer focus, and a sustainable future.

As the airline soars into the next decade, one can expect continued advancements and a passion for exceeding expectations.

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By Len Varley - Assistant Editor 8 Min Read
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