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Virgin Atlantic Reveals New ‘Queen of the Skies’ in Honor of Elizabeth II

An Airbus A330neo named in honor of the late monarch will join the U.K. carrier's fleet in April

by Fergus Cole

January 25, 2023

Photo: Courtesy of Virgin Atlantic

A brand-new airplane, set to be delivered to Virgin Atlantic in April, will be named ‘Queen of the Skies’ in honor of the late Queen Elizabeth II.

The name ‘Queen of the Skies’ may sound familiar to aviation enthusiasts, as this has long been a widely-used nickname for the Boeing 747, a long-time favorite model for long-haul flights. However, with Virgin Atlantic’s 747 now being retired, the new ‘Queen of the Skies’ will take the form of an Airbus A330neo, registered as G-VEII, which will join the carrier’s fleet this spring.

Photo: Courtesy of Virgin Atlantic

Virgin Atlantic has revealed the livery of the new plane, which features its customary red-headed woman in a red dress flying the British flag, with the plane’s name displayed just below.

“Just like Queen Elizabeth during her historic 70-year reign, Virgin Atlantic is proud to fly the flag for the United Kingdom around the world,” said Corneel Koster, Chief Customer and Operations Officer at Virgin Atlantic.

“We’re delighted to soon be welcoming ‘Queen of the Skies’ to our fleet and hope that it serves as a fitting tribute to an unforgettable, much-loved monarch.”

Virgin Atlantic has only been operating flights with its Airbus A330neos since October, but it is currently used on the airline’s daily route between London Heathrow (LHR) and Tampa (TPA). The airline says that around 11 percent of its summer schedule in and out of London Heathrow will be operated with the new planes, including transatlantic flights to New York (JFK), Miami (MIA), and Atlanta (ATL).

Photo: Courtesy of Airbus

The popularity of A330neos has been steadily increasing since its introduction to the skies in late 2018, thanks to its longer, more slender wings, which help reduce drag and improve fuel efficiency. The aircraft interior, meanwhile, features two exclusive Retreat Suites in the Upper Class cabin. These luxurious suites come with two 2m-long flat beds and a 27-inch touchscreen entertainment system.

Photo: Courtesy of Virgin Atlantic

Virgin Atlantic’s existing A330neos are also named after historical figures. Its small fleet includes a plane named after the American singer Billie Holiday, an aircraft called ‘Space Oddity’ in honor of David Bowie, and one named after Eliza Doolittle, the fictional heroine in the musical My Fair Lady.

Beyond its fleet of Airbus A330neos, Virgin Atlantic has a history of naming its aircraft after significant historical women. The carrier even had another plane named ‘Queen of the Skies’ in honor of Queen Elizabeth II – an Airbus A340-600 – unveiled in 2004.

Other Virgin Atlantic aircraft with notable nicknames include ‘Lady Emmeline’ in honor of women’s rights activist Emmeline Pankhurst, ‘Fearless Lady’ in honor of Richard Branson’s mother, Eve Branson, and the now-discontinued ‘Diana’ in honor of the late Diana, Princess of Wales.