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VirginVirgin Atlantic (a trading name of Virgin Atlantic Airways Limited) is a British airline and part of Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Group.


Delta Air Lines agreed on 11 December 2012 to purchase Singapore Airlines' stake, which will require regulatory approval to be completed. Virgin Atlantic's headquarters is in Crawley, West Sussex, England, near Gatwick Airport.

Virgin Atlantic uses a mixed fleet of Airbus and Boeing wide-bodied jets and operates between the United Kingdom and North America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and Australia from its bases at Gatwick and Heathrow airports.

In 2011 Virgin Atlantic carried 5.3 million passengers, making it the eighth largest UK airline in terms of passenger volume. In the year to February 2012, the airline had an annual operating loss of £80.2 million on a turnover of £2,740 million.

On 22 June 1984, Virgin Atlantic operated its inaugural scheduled service between Gatwick and Newark using a leased Boeing 747-200 (registration G-VIRG), christened Maiden Voyager, formerly operated by Aerolíneas Argentinas. Part of Richard Branson's approach to business is to succeed within the first year or exit the market. This includes a one-year limit on everything associated with starting up. Virgin Atlantic became profitable during the first 12 months, aided by sister company Virgin Records' ability to finance the lease of a second-hand Boeing 747. The firm timed operations to take advantage of a full summer, from June to September – the most profitable period of the year.

In 1986, the airline added another Boeing 747 and started a scheduled route from Gatwick to Miami. Additional aircraft were acquired and routes launched from Gatwick to New York JFK (1988), Tokyo (1989), Los Angeles (1990), Boston (1991), and Orlando (1992). In 1987, a service was launched between Luton and Dublin using Viscount turboprop aircraft, but this was withdrawn around 1990. In 1988 Club Air operated two Boeing 727 jet aircraft on behalf of Virgin. These served the Luton to Dublin route until about 1990.

In January 1991, the UK opened Heathrow Airport to Virgin when it abolished the London Air Traffic Distribution Rules (TDRs) in response to pressure from the industry. The London TDRs had come into effect in 1978, originally created to achieve a fairer distribution of traffic between Heathrow and Gatwick, the UK's two main international airports, to help Gatwick make a profit. The former rules stated airlines without an international scheduled service from Heathrow prior to 1 April 1977 would not be permitted operations there; instead they would have to use Gatwick. However, airlines that did not already operate at Heathrow were still able to commence domestic scheduled services there provided BAA, which ran both Heathrow and Gatwick on behalf of the UK Government, and the Secretary of State for Transport granted permission.

The decision to open Heathrow to all newcomers in 1991 – other than those governed by Bermuda II – angered BA's chairman Lord King, who stopped British Airways' donations to the Conservative Party in protest. Lord King was further angered by the subsequent decision of the CAA to transfer two pairs of unused landing slots that British Airways held at Tokyo's Narita Airport to Virgin to let it increase its frequency between Heathrow and Tokyo from four to six weekly round trips, making it easier for Virgin to compete against British Airways. King called the CAA's decision, which the Government had endorsed, "a confiscation of his company's property".

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