Waving goodbye to the Queen of the Skies

Richard Branson celebrates Virgin Atlantic's inaugural flight in 1984 with champagne in front of photographers
Image from Virgin.com
A close up of Richard Branson smiling, looking at the camera
Richard Branson's signature
Published on 16 December 2020

The Boeing 747 is a plane that holds a special place in my heart – the Queen of the Skies started Virgin Atlantic and has taken us on so many adventures over the past 36 years.

The idea of starting Virgin Atlantic came about back in the 80s when I was due to fly to the British Virgin Islands to be reunited with a lovely lady named Joan (who is now my lovely wife). When my flight was cancelled at the last minute I was very disappointed – so I started looking for a solution.

Virgin Atlantic
Virgin Atlantic

I figured there was a whole plane load of people who wanted to get somewhere – all I needed was the plane. I went to the back of the airport, hired a plane and found a board. As a joke, I wrote ‘Virgin Air one way: $39 to the Virgin Islands’, and filled up the flight with all the bumped passengers.

As we landed, a passenger said to me: “Virgin Airways isn’t too bad – smarten up the service and you could be in business.” He was definitely onto something. This experience taught me that there was a gap in the market for doing things differently and giving passengers a great experience. So, I set about trying to lease a plane - a 747 - and start an airline.

The 747 marked the dawn of a new era of air travel and we jumped on board. We flew to desirable destinations. We came up with innovative new products and services that would make the journey much more fun. We hired positive people with lively personalities to be our cabin crew.

Virgin.com
Virgin.com

On our inaugural flight, I remember thinking it was the most fun journey I’d ever experienced. The employees were delightful, the entertainment was magical and I got off the flight excited for the next one. I hope every customer still has that feeling – I know I still do.

Virgin.com
Virgin.com

The 747 is leaving Virgin Atlantic’s fleet to make way for a younger, more sustainable fleet of Airbus A350-1000s and Boeing 787-9s. I’m sure we will make many more magical memories with the new planes in the years to come.