Air Transport World

More than a toe in the water now. (Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd. focus) (company profile)

From a 1-route, 1-aircraft airline in 1985, Virgin Atlantic is reaching for routes that will bring it true globe-circling status. By Arthur Reed.

Crawley, England--When it was featured originally (ATW, 2/85) Virgin Atlantic Airways had only recently started up a one-route, one-aircraft scheduled-service operation and its owner, the pop-music millionaire Richard Branson, was talking about "putting a toe in the [airline)] water and liking the feel."

At the time, he added: "We will--almost definitely--carry on past June, 1985."

It was a brave, if tentative, beginning but a visit to VA's headquarters here today proves that a lot can happen in five years in this particular industry. To that single route from London Gatwick to Newark, five others have been added--JFK, Miami, Orlando, Tokyo and--from last month--Los Angeles. The one Boeing 747 has been joined by five others.

And today, there is nothing tentative about plans for the future. New-technology, long-haul equipment is seriously being assessed and VA is chasing a clutch of routes that, if they all come into being, will take this relative newcomer to the business virtually around the world--down to Australia going eastward and to New Zealand going in the other direction.

$8 million profit expected

During its first two years of operation, Virgin Atlantic lost money--$4.3 million in an 8-month 1984-85 fiscal and $2.1 million in '85-86, a fiscal that lasted 18 months. Since then, it has been profitable--$7.8 million in '86-87, $16.1 million in '87-88 and $11. …

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