Business Treaveler logo

Travel news, reviews and intel for high-flyers

Virgin Atlantic Marks 40th Anniversary with Las Vegas Launch and Canadian Comeback

The British carrier is celebrating its Ruby Anniversary by announcing new daily flights from London to Toronto and launching Las Vegas

by Fergus Cole

June 12, 2024

Richard Branson greeting the press before the first Virgin Atlantic flight aboard the Maiden Voyager from London to New York, June 22, 1984 / Photo: Courtesy of Virgin Atlantic

Virgin Atlantic will resume transatlantic flights to Canada next year, marking the airline’s first return to the country in over ten years.

The British carrier held a press conference on Monday to celebrate its Ruby Anniversary, having started operations 40 years ago with its first-ever commercial flight from London Gatwick (LGW) to Newark (EWR).

Founded by British tycoon Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Atlantic claims to have served 21 million glasses of champagne and employed 7,000 cabin crew over four decades.

And now, as confirmed during its celebrations earlier this week, it will return to Canada next year after more than a decade since its last operating flights there.

Starting on March 30, 2025, Virgin Atlantic will launch a daily service between London Heathrow (LHR) and Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ).

Photo: Virgin Atlantic’s Retreat Suite offers first class amenities in the front row of its Upper Class cabin. Courtesy of Virgin Atlantic

The airline said it would use a mix of aircraft to operate the route, including its newly-arrived Airbus A330-900neos, which feature its exclusive Retreat Suites, an onboard ‘social space’ that acts like a lounge in the sky, and wireless charging capabilities.

The new service will also help to connect business travelers from Toronto to major financial centers in India, with Virgin Atlantic offering regular flights from London to economic hubs such as Mumbai (BOM), Delhi (DEL), and Bengaluru (BLR).

Las Vegas On the Spot

Virgin Atlantic also celebrated nonstop flights from Manchester Airport (MAN) to Harry Reid International Airport (LAS) in Las Vegas during the event. This new route marks the airline’s 15th transatlantic service to the U.S. and complements its existing route to Las Vegas from London Heathrow.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Virgin Atlantic (@virginatlantic)

The carrier also announced that it will be expanding its codeshare partnership with Canadian airline WestJet in October this year, which will give Canadians greater access to seamless travel from cities such as Ottawa (YOW) and Winnipeg (YWG), and provide added benefits to both carriers’ frequent flyers from next year.

Transatlantic Pioneer

Virgin Atlantic has been a pioneering force in the global airline industry, initially aiming to make international air travel more exciting when it started four decades ago. It was the first major airline to introduce seat-back screens while creating the Premium Economy class concept, which is now prevalent across most international carriers.

Meanwhile, Virgin also launched an innovative concept of in-flight bars where passengers could purchase drinks and socialize with other travelers. However, this concept didn’t take off and has been dropped by Virgin.

Recently, Sir Richard Branson admitted that getting rid of the bars on the planes was a ‘dreadful mistake’ and hinted at their return. Despite this setback, Virgin Atlantic continues to innovate, exemplified by its historic Flight 100 from London Heathrow to New York in November 2023. This flight was the first transatlantic flight powered by 100 percent Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF).

Photo: Courtesy of Virgin

The airline celebrated all its major feats during this week’s Ruby Anniversary, and Branson paid a special tribute to the thousands of staff who have worked for his airline over its 40-year history.

“When starting Virgin Atlantic 40 years ago, I went against everyone’s advice,” said Branson. “Friends, experts, the press, the pundits – and on paper, they were right. Back then, traveling by plane wasn’t a fun experience, but airlines were allowed to get away with it as no real competition existed. I realized 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.”

Photo: Courtesy of Pensara / Virgin.com

“Since then, there have been many occasions where people told me we’d fail. But we kept the same belief 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.”