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Planes, trains, and space ships are already a reality for Virgin, and if Richard Branson gets his wish, a cruise line will be next.
Currently, only three companies, Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian, control 80% of the global market when it comes to cruising, prompting Branson to believe that he can come in and compete by doing things differently. Though specific details are slim, Branson told The National that his line would be based in Miami and "supply the Virgin touch" while offering "more entertainment and leisure opportunities on board the ships."
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Virgin America has always been the US' new little airline that could, and the intrepid company has fought for every bit of cool cache they carry, helped along by introducing many "firsts."
For example, Virgin America was the first airline to produce a flight attendant-based TV show, the first airline with an advanced seatback entertainment system including food and beverage ordering functions, the first to fly nonstop between New York and Palm Springs, the first to film a movie completely on scheduled flights, and the first airline to do Instagram promotions. Now they can tack another first onto this impressive list: that of creating the first in-flight social network.
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You know we like to follow the goings on of Sir Richard Branson and his Virgin Galactic project, and now we’ll be able to do from the comfort of our couch. Virgin Galactic is teaming up with the mastermind behind shows like Survivor and The Voice—Mark Burnett—to launch a reality show to give away a ride into space.
Details are limited at this point, but we’d imagine that things would follow the basic premise of pretty much all reality shows. Unique personalities, wacky competitions, and plenty of drama should lead to a show worthy of a spot on our DVR. We do know that the show will be called "Space Race," and the big winner will get a ride aboard SpaceShipTwo.
It's crazy to think that Spaceport America, the middle-of-nowhere New Mexico base for Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic, has already been open for just over two years. We may not yet have regular flights to space, but while that day grows nearer the public is very welcome to come have a look around.
The Spaceport, located in the Chihuahuan Desert 150 miles south of Albuquerque, actually offers public tours aimed at "giving guests an up close look at the spaceflight facilities before operations begin." The tours have grown so popular that the tour operators, Follow The Sun Inc., have changed the pick-up point to a more central location (The Holiday Inn, with free breakfast!) in the hot springs town of Truth or Consequences.
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"You're on the list."
Unless they're referring to the TSA's No-Fly List, that little sentence may bring big things if you're flying Virgin Atlantic from one of the airline's seven destinations in the US or UK.
The "Guest List" program is now available (for a price) to all Virgin Atlantic travelers, sharing the perks once solely reserved for Upper Class flyers with those seated in Economy or Premium Economy. It's essentially a fast track to VIP treatment without having to pay the premium airfare of an Upper Class ticket, from only $384 per person or $544 per couple (traveling in the same car).
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Earlier this year, we delved into the world of pet travel fees on airlines, a topic not much discussed but a frequent cause of concern for travelers with animals.
In the US, there are a few airlines that stand out when it comes to pet travel; Virgin America has a "pet liaison" named Boo and JetBlue awards 300 frequent flyer miles for every one-way flown with your fuzzy friend.
Abroad, any perks of pet travel are nearly non-existant, with the exception of what Air New Zealand is now calling "Australia's first Pet Frequent Flyer Program."
There's something special about imbibing while in transit, but trains always seem to get a bad rap when it comes to beverages, perhaps because dining cars aren't always the most appetizing places to pop a tab. Virgin Trains understands, and though passengers on their high-speed lines around England can always enjoy a complimentary gin & tonic in First Class, the company is now offering a special beer called "Tilting Ale."
The brew, a Virgin beer that's not a "virgin" beer, is a partnership between Virgin Trains and Redwillow Brewery in Macclesfield, Cheshire. It's available now, costs only £2.95 a bottle, and comes with an appropriate flavor description:
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Sure, we love all the speed and comfort of modern travel, but it didn't that way overnight. Every Thursday, we're going to take a look back at travel the way it used to be, whether that's decades or centuries ago. This is Throwback Thursday, travel edition.
The year was 1984 and the place was London-Gatwick International Airport. A 747-200 named "Maiden Voyager" taxied on the tarmac for a virgin flight to Newark, on a virgin airline. The airline's name? Virgin, or, well, Virgin Atlantic.
Virgin's flight attendants weren't yet known for their cherry red lips, or their scarlet pencil skirts and chic up-dos, but they were on their way.
Fast forward to today, as Virgin Atlantic continues to fly 747sthe fleet and destination list are much larger nowand they're again ready to show a fresh face with new flight crew uniforms designed by Vivienne Westwood.
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Right now, somewhere in Malaysia, a red skirt is being tailored to fit Sir Richard Branson.
On May 12, Branson will join Air Asia Group CEO Tony Fernandes on a flight from Perth, Australia to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The six-hour trip is a special one, as it's finally the moment Sir Richard makes good on a bet he lost to Fernandes in late 2010, over whose Formula One race team would be ranked higher. Spoiler alert: Fernandes' Lotus Racing team won over over that of Virgin, and the plans to install Branson as a flight attendant on an Air Asia X flight began.
The event has been delayed many times, but finally seats are now for sale from $399 AUD ($420 USD) on the special, one-way flight, and may be purchased online. Be sure to book AirAsia X’s flight D7 237 on Sunday, May 12.
Kinda like an irreverent Amber Alert, Richard Branson is looking for someone and now all corners of the earth have their eyes peeled for the original Virgin model. One major problem is that identity of said model is a complete mystery.
The model became the face of the brand some 40 years ago, posing for the very first Virgin Records brand logo. Donning nothing but her birthday suit, the 'mystery virgin' became the inspiration for the the drawing which has been tweaked and reworked over the years to reflect a modern twist, now replaced by the current vampy red 'Virgin' word.
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New year, new airline ad campaigns. Ya ready? Virgin Atlantic apparently is, as they spent the last sliver of 2012 releasing their newest commercial, titled "Flying in the face of ordinary."
It's a cinematic two minutes, that's for sure. Essentially the ad portrays Virgin Atlantic crew as being preternaturally gifted and destined (it's in their DNA!) to use their powers for goodor rather for the good of Virgin Atlantic's passenger comfort. According to the voiceover, they're "saving us from the bland, the beige, and the common 'can't be bothered'" when it comes to air travel and customer service.
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What began as one floor is now an entire building, and their original two coast-to-coast flights are now a respectable route network. We're speaking of Virgin America, whose headquarters outside SFO in Burlingame, California we recently visited for a look at the cogs turning behind the scenes.
Virgin America celebrated their fifth anniversary this year. That makes them the baby of the bunch, for both US airlines and Virgin. Heck, Virgin Atlantic has been flying since 1984 and Virgin Australia since 2000. Indeed Virgin America isn't shy about their newbieness; they take pride in it. Google them and the first words you'll see below the link to their official site are "A brand new airline dedicated to making flying good again."
You know what else is new? Their cabin trainer and A320 flight simulator still have that "new plane smell," since they were introduced as recently as October 2011 and May 2012, respectively. Home to many photo shoots (and in-flight service training, duh), the cabin is outfitted with everything from the deep mood lighting to working overhead bins and those massage chairs in First Class. Before a flight attendant can ask if you'd like another in-flight absinthe, she or he must first pass muster here.