High Flying Virgin

What a great breath of fresh air the ITV documentary on Virgin Atlantic was, quite unheard of over the last 20 years with the UK aviation. Instead of seeing crowds of people moaning about missing their flights or problems occurring at airports, or draconian measures when employing staff as seen British Airways, this was a true good news story bringing new life into a well loved brand.

Reaching 30 is a great achievement for such a small airline, and much like Ryanair have punched above their weight at time in order to change the industry. It has been achieved in different ways, Virgin Atlantic pride themselves on offering a better product than the competition, and battle the establishment, especially at Heathrow. Despite being opposed to the BA/AA tie up, it has now teamed up with Delta Airlines to protect their position on their most profitable market, that of the USA.

Ryanair did it a different way, bringing in a lower cost to operate, and therefore bringing the cost of flying down. This had fed through to these more established airlines, even though Ryanair is 30 as well today. In the first episode we saw the build up to the launch of their first 787, which will replace the less fuel efficient A340-600 and 747-400’s, ordered in a day when they believed ‘four engines 4 long haul’. That left them in a difficult position when the fuel price went through the roof, and the 787 is the first step to realigning the business to one which is profitable.

What came across yesterday was the positivity throughout the company. That wasn’t just from the top, but from the cabin crew and background staff, not all in the public eye. Compare that to the recent documentary on British Airways by the BBC and it looks sour and draconian in comparison.

The pressure to increase profits brought in the new and unpopular Upper Class Suite on the A330, the aircraft employed by the airline to bridge the gap during the delays caused on the 787 programme. It was too small, too narrow and the four abreast seating didn’t work on a similar cabin width to the A340 which only has 3. With the new seat shown on the episode, costing several hundred thousand pounds that it has been reversed on the 787. Listing to the public in what they want is a necessary part of any successful business.

It’s great that we can have such positive, forward thinking and emotionally compelling companies broadcast on television. A real breath of fresh air.

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