VIRGIN ATLANTIC splashed out on its 25th birthday yesterday with a $2.1bn (£1.28bn) deal, saying it would take delivery of 10 new Airbus A330-300 aircraft between now and 2012.
The birthday goodies will allow the airline to expand while it waits for the delivery of Boeing’s troubled 787 Dreamliner.
The planes, each seating up to 270 passengers, will allow the airline to expand its reach to Beijing, Cancun and Vancouver.
“Despite the worst economic conditions in decades, we are focusing on sustainable growth in the years ahead using the most fuel-efficient aircraft possible,” Virgin Atlantic’s chief executive Steve Ridgway said
In typical lavish Virgin style, the airline also celebrated by recreating the very first flight to New York that departed on 22 June 1984.
Supermodel Kate Moss, dressed as a Virgin Atlantic pin-up, was swept up by the airline’s boss Richard Branson as she wished it happy birthday.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown also sent an anniversary message, saying that “Britain is rightly proud of having the world’s most innovative and competitive airlines.
“Virgin Atlantic and Richard Branson’s vision and pioneering spirit have changed the global airline business over the last 25 years,” he added.
Meanwhile, transport secretary Lord Adonis waded into the row between Branson and airline British Airways (BA), warning there would be “no bailouts” given to struggling airlines.
The comments come after the bearded mogul urged the government not to rescue its arch-rival in the downturn.
Over 65m passengers have travelled with Virgin Atlantic since 1984.
25 YEARS OF VIRGIN ATLANTIC
Branson publishes the first issue of Student Magazine – his first business venture.
Virgin Atlantic Airways is launched, with one leased Boeing 747-200 flying to Newark Liberty in New York.
The airline adds another Boeing 747 and starts a scheduled route fromGatwick to Miami.
1988 – 1992
Flights are launched between Gatwick and New York-JFK, Tokyo, Los Angeles, Boston, and Orlando.
Virgin sells 49 per cent of the airline’s holding company to Singapore Airlines for £600.25m. Virgin Group still owns 51 per cent.
Virgin launches Australian low cost airline, Virgin Blue.
Virgin launches its space programme, Virgin Galactic.
Virgin launches low cost US airline, Virgin America, which loses nearly $35m in its first three months.
VIRGIN’S OTHER BRANDS:
The first of the international chain of stores opened in 1971. Virgin Megastore was sold and renamed Zavvi, before collapsing in 2008.
Virgin’s body care, cosmetics, homeware and jewellery products brand was bought by its senior management for an undisclosed sum in January.
Branson’s debt-laden pay-tv brand is struggling in the downturn as hard-pressed consumers fail to renew their subscriptions.