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Virgin Atlantic commenced services on 22nd June 1984 with former Aerolineas Argentinas Boeing 747-200 G-VIRG “Maiden Voyager” operating the inaugural London Gatwick - Newark service.

The history of the airline could be traced to a failed attempt by American lawyer Randolph Fields and former Laker Airways pilot Alan Hellary to set up British Atlantic Airways with plans firstly for a London Gatwick - Port Stanley and then a London Gatwick - New York JFK service.

Airbus A340-600 deliveries continued with G-VATL “Miss Kitty” and G-VGOA “Indian Princess” arriving at Heathrow along with the final Boeing 747-400 the airline had on order, G-VROC “Mustang Sally”.

Airbus A340-300 withdrawals began in 2003 with G-VAEL “Maiden Toulouse” and G-VSKY “China Girl” both leaving the fleet.

New routes were launched from London Gatwick - Port Harcourt, London Gatwick - Grenada and London Gatwick - Tobago.

In 2004 Virgin Atlantic secured a long term ambition by extending its London Heathrow - Hong Kong service through to Sydney. It had previously offered through fares to Sydney via Ansett Australia’s Hong Kong - Sydney service but with the demise of Ansett in 2001 had been excluded from the Sydney market.

Just one aircraft joined the fleet this year Airbus A340-600 G-VEIL “Queen of The Skies”. However Boeing 747-200s G-VBEE and G-VSSS, now with Air Atlanta Icelandic were leased for Orlando services.

Airbus A340-600 deliveries continued through 2005 with G-VGAS “Varga Girl”, G-VNAP “Sleeping Beauty”, G-VSSH “Sweet Dreamer” and G-VWKD “Miss Behavin” arriving at London Heathrow. This allowed Airbus A340-300s G-VBUS “Lady in Red” and G-VFLY “Dragon Lady” to leave the fleet and Boeing 747-400 G-VTOP “Virginia Plain” to switch from London Heathrow - London Gatwick after cabin reconfiguration.

2005 also saw Virgin Atlantic place an order for six A380s for delivery in 2009, but in 2006 deferred delivery until 2013.

To celebrate its 21st Birthday the airline temporarily re-named Boeing 747-400 G-VFAB as “Birthday Girl” and adorned the aircraft in a special “Birthday Girl” livery.

No fewer than seven A340-600s arrived in 2006; G-VBLU “Soul Sister”, G-VFIT “Dancing Queen”, G-VFIZ “Bubbles”, G-VRED “Scarlet Lady”, G-VWEB “Surfer Girl”, G-VWIN “Lady Luck” and G-VYOU “Emmeline Heaney” allowing Boeing 747-400s G-VAST “Ladybird” and G-VXLG “Ruby Tuesday” to be reconfigured at Amsterdam and transferred from London Heathrow - London Gatwick.

In June 2006 Virgin Atlantic reported to the UK and US competition authorities that it had engaged in price fixing with British Airways over fuel surcharges on trans-Atlantic services. As a result of its self-reporting Virgin Atlantic was granted immunity from prosecution.

The final A340-600 G-VBUG “Lady Bird” arrived in 2007. Looking to the future Virgin Atlantic placed orders for fifteen Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners with options on a further eight and purchase rights for a further twenty.

In light of the Global Financial Crisis Virgin Atlantic stored two Airbus A340-600s, G-VATL “Miss Kitty” and G-VGOA “Indian Princess” at Lourdes during 2009 although both returned to the fleet in 2010.

2009 saw the airline order ten Airbus A330-300s for delivery from 2011. However three of the five aircraft due for delivery in 2011 were leased out without seeing service with Virgin Atlantic with two heading straight from Toulouse to China Airlines in Taiwan and one passing from Virgin Atlantic to Ryan International in the USA.

A rebranding in 2010 saw the first aircraft appear in Billboard livery with large titles in a new font which also appear on the aircraft undersides.

In a reversal of the 2006 case with British Airways, in 2010 Cathay Pacific reported alleged price fixing between Virgin Atlantic and Cathay Pacific on the London Heathrow - Hong Kong route. This matter is still under investigation.

The first two Virgin Atlantic Airbus A330-300s, G-VSXY and G-VKSS commenced services in 2011 on routes from London Gatwick, Manchester and Glasgow to Orlando. These aircraft were in a 59W/255Y configuration without an Upper Class cabin.

Virgin Atlantic’s first Three Class Airbus A330-300 G-VRAY entered service on the VS3/VS4 London Heathrow - New York JFK rotation on 21st April 2012 featuring a new Upper Class product labelled Upper Class Dream Suite. This featured updates to the previous design but with a new patented layout whereby the middle seats are dovetailed at the head allowing a 1-2-1 configuration rather than the previous 1-1-1. This allowed Virgin Atlantic to increase the cabin density to higher than that usually found with a traditional forward facing layout, but with all passengers having direct aisle access.

The airline launched a London Gatwick - Athens service which was operated by a South East European Airlines A320. On the demise of SEEA Virgin leased the same A320 as EI-VIR before it became G-OUZO “Spirit of Melina”.

Boeing 747-200 G-VRGN “Maid of Honour” departed the fleet in 1995.

Further new routes were launched in 1996 with London Heathrow - Washington and London Heathrow - Johannesburg services added. A further new Airbus A340-300, G-VSUN “Rainbow Lady” joined the fleet this year along with the airline’s third Boeing 747-400 G-VBIG “Tinker Belle”.

1997 saw a further major expansion to the fleet with three Airbus A340-300s, G-VAIR “Maiden Tokyo”, G-VHOL “Jetstreamer” and G-VSEA “Plain Sailing” along with a further two Boeing 747-400s G-VAST “Ladybird” and G-VTOP “Virginia Plain” joining the fleet.

Airbus A340-300 deliveries were completed in 1998 when G-VELD “African Queen” and G-VFAR “Diana” arrived along with a further Boeing 747-400 G-VXLG “Ruby Tuesday”. New routes were launched from London Gatwick to Antigua, Barbados and St Lucia.

Quality used Boeing 747-200s were now appearing on the market at knock down prices and Virgin Atlantic took G-VCAT “Wild Thing” from Air New Zealand and G-VRUM “Calypso Queen” from Cathay Pacific this year. This allowed veteran G-VOYG “Shady Lady” to depart to RAF Kemble for scrapping.

The Silver Dream Machine livery was introduced in 1999 at Amsterdam when Boeing 747-400 G-VXLG “Ruby Tuesday”. This silver based livery featured Union Jacks on the wingtips and the legend “Britain’s Flag Carrier”. This was in response to British Airways having dropped the Union Flag for its disastrous World Images.

Expansion in 1999 saw new routes added from London Heathrow - Cape Town, London Heathrow - Chicago  and London Heathrow - Shanghai. Three further used Boeing 747-200s were added to the fleet with G-VBEE “Honey Pie”, G-VIBE “Dancing Queen” and G-ZZZZ “Morning Glory” all arriving from Air New Zealand.

In March 2000 49% of the airline was sold to Singapore Airlines for a remarkable £600.25 million with the Virgin Group retaining a 51% controlling share.

2000 saw Boeing 747-100 G-VMIA “Spirit of Sir Freddie” depart to RAF Kemble for scrapping.

A new A321 G-VATH “Hellenic Beauty” joined the fleet this year to take over the London Heathrow/London Gatwick - Athens service. The route and the aircraft both departed in late 2001.

In 2001 Virgin Atlantic agreed to step in and take five Boeing 747-400s from leasing company GECAS which had previously been bound for Alitalia. These aircraft were G-VGAL “Jersey Girl”, G-VLIP “Hot Lips”, G-VROM “Barbarella”, G-VROS “English Rose” and G-VROY “Pretty Woman”. G-VWOW “Cosmic Girl” was also delivered this year and featured new Premium Economy and Economy seating with a new in flight entertainment system. This allowed several Boeing 747-200s to be retired namely G-VCAT “Wild Thing”, G-VGIN “Scarlet Lady”, G-VIRG “Maiden Voyager”, G-VJFK “Boston Belle”, G-VLAX “California Girl” and G-VRUM “Calypso Queen”.

The September 11 2001 attacks saw demand for travel to the US drop considerably and the London Heathrow - Chicago route was dropped. However a new London Heathrow - Lagos service was inaugurated.

Virgin Atlantic was launch customer for the Airbus A340-600 and these began arriving in 2002 with G-VFOX “Silver Lady”, G-VMEG “Mystic Maiden”, G-VOGE “Cover Girl” and G-VSHY “Madame  Butterfly” joining the fleet at Heathrow. This allowed the withdrawal of Boeing 747-200 G-VSSS “Island Lady”.

Virgin Atlantic’s new full flat bed Upper Class Suite was launched in 2003 and this was the first time that “herringbone” seating allowing all passengers direct aisle access had been launched by any airline.

A well travelled former Alitalia Boeing 747-200 joined the fleet in 1986 and this was registered G-VGIN and named “Scarlet Lady”. The addition of this aircraft allowed a new London Gatwick - Miami service to be inaugurated.

The airline also operated a London Gatwick - Maastrict feeder service operated either by BAC 1-11s of British Island Airways or by British Air Ferries Vickers Viscount G-AOYP which was painted in Virgin Atlantic livery.

Virgin Atlantic was also involved in a Luton - Dublin service operated firstly by Boeing 727-100s of Club Air and then by a Capital Airlines Vicket Viscount.

Further second hand 747-200s were added to the fleet during the late 1980s and early 1990s with G-VRGN “Maiden of Honour” and G-TKYO “Maiden Japan” joining in 1989 when London Gatwick - Tokyo Narita and London Gatwick - New York JFK services commenced.

In 1990 Boeing 747-100 G-VMIA “Spirit of Sir Freddie” and Boeing 747-200 G-VOYG “Shady Lady” joined the fleet allowing a London Gatwick - Los Angeles service to commence.

1991 saw another a further two 747-200s, G-VJFK “Boston Belle” and G-VLAX “California Girl” added to the fleet and a London Gatwick - Boston service commenced. KLM Boeing 747-200 PH-BUG was also leased in for a short period.

January 1991 saw Virgin Atlantic permitted to commence services from London Heathrow following the Conservative government’s decision to scrap the existing London Air Traffic Distribution Rules which forced all airlines without International scheduled services to London Heathrow prior to 1st April 1977 compelled to fly to London Gatwick. The CAA also removed two pairs of slots at Tokyo Narita airport, which were in British Airways’ name but were not being utlised, and handed these to Virgin Atlantic.

Virgin Atlantic moved its Los Angeles, New York JFK and Tokyo Narita services from London Gatwick to London Heathrow.

1991 also saw seatback TVs introduced in Economy for the first time.

1992 saw Virgin Atlantic launch its Mid-Class cabin which provided a separate cabin with larger seats for full-fare Economy Class passengers. It also launched a new London Gatwick - Orlando service.

The acclaimed Virgin Clubhouse lounge at London Heathrow’s Terminal 3 opened in 1993. This was also the year that saw the airline receive its first new aircraft when Airbus A340-300 G-VBUS “Lady In Red” joined the fleet complete with naming ceremony performed by HRH Diana Princess of Wales.

Air New Zealand Boeing 747-200 ZK-NZX operated on lease for five months in 1993. This aircraft would join the fleet full time in 2000 as G-VSSS.

1993 will be best remembered as the year of the “dirty tricks” controversy. Virgin Atlantic sued British Airways for libel over an article by BA’s PR Director which appeared in BA News. BA settled out of court after various “dirty tricks” were revealed at a cost of £3m in legal bills, personal damages to Richard Branson of £500,000 and £110.000 to Virgin Atlantic.

Three further A340-300s, G-VAEL “Maiden Toulouse”, G-VFLY “Dragon Lady” and G-VSKY “China Girl” joined the fleet in 1994 and this permitted the withdrawal of Boeing 747-200 G-TKYO “Maiden Japan”. The airline also received its first new Boeing 747-400s with the arrival of G-VFAB “Lady Penelope” and G-VHOT “Tubular Belle”. These enabled new routes to be launched from London Heathrow - Hong Kong and London Heathrow - San Francisco.

Mid Class was rebranded as Premium Economy during this year.