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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.
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Are you ready for this jelly? Virgin America has just used the opportunity of today's notable 12-12-12 date to debut their very first airline lounge. It's called The Loft and you'll find it snuggled up airside in Terminal 3 at LAX near the Virgin America gates.
The lounge, in all its mood-lit glory, replicated much of what makes the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouses so desirablenamely the slick design (and designer furniture) and complimentary meal and drinks service. Instead of a grab-and-go snack bar like you'd find in many US domestic lounges, Virgin America offers a menu with options like smoked salmon bagels, sushi, soba, and shrimp caesar salad.
And, instead of a cash bar with well drinks, the Loft offers six specialty cocktails (drooling over the "Runway Ruddy Mary"), top shelf liquors, red, white and sparkling wines, domestic and imported beers on tap and in bottles, and even juice mixes if you've already had one Ruddy Mary too many.
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"Oh man, ugh whatever." - the typical feeling upon discovering your flight is departing from Newark-Liberty International Airport
It's true. Newark isn't exactly the most convenient airport, nor will it be winning any airport beauty pageants, but airlines have ways of turning your frown upside-down real quick. A grand example is the newly revamped, just-debuted-this-week Virgin Atlantic Upper Class Clubhouse.
At 5,000 square feet, it's half the size of their also recently reopened JFK Clubhouse, but that's partly due to the fact this one doesn't have the Cowshed Spa. Going for a downtown feel (JFK's aims for uptown style), it instead focuses around the architectural central bar (most popular cocktail? Mojito!) and chill-out lounge nooks (see the "Passion Pit" in our gallery below).
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Do you like free flights?
Wait. That's a totally stupid question because...duh.
To win booty like roundtrip tickets to London, airport Clubhouse passes, upgrades, frequent flyer miles and limited edition merch, simply follow these steps:
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In case you thought that Virgin America only took after its sister airlines in mood-lit interior design, the airline is copying Virgin Australia's 2011 idea to attract business travelers and elite flyers by offering a status match.
Virgin America is specifically targeting elite flyers on United and American, offering free entry to their own Elevate Gold or Silver level status without the flyer having to sacrifice anything. United Premier 1K or Platinum, or an American Executive Platinum will automatically be Elevate Gold. United Premier Gold or American Platinum will automatically be matched to Elevate Silver. All you have to do is ask. Here's how:
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Have you ever been inside a Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse? They're awesome, right? Totally. And don't the passengers know it. In fact, snapping photos inside the chic Clubhouses and uploading them to Instagram is such a common occurrence that Virgin Atlantic has decided to embrace it with an Instagram contest all their own.
Next month Virgin will unveil a renovated Clubhouse at Newark-Liberty International. It'll have the usual design flair (with a downtown theme), a dining area, a sleek bar and plenty of chill-out space. OHand an Instagram art gallery, which is where your images come into play.
Upload photos to Instagram or Twitter showing you in a Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse, any of the Clubhouses. Do so before November 28, include the hashtag "#howiclubhouse," and they'll be considered for a feature in the Newark gallery.
In just over a month from now, the United States will experience the lovely and so very relaxing travel time surrounding Thanksgiving. Oh, did we mention it's opposite day and that we really mean that it's a hectic and expensive time to hit the skies? Add the stress of holiday travel onto the anxiety of heading home and dudeyou need a drink.
While most airlines wouldn't exactly encourage their passengers to have a tipple (or two, or three), Virgin America hasn't ever been part of the "most airlines" crowd. Recently they collaborated with Buzzfeed to suggest 9 In-Flight Cocktail Hacks, fully mixable utilizing the onboard booze variety offered by Virgin America and purchased via their seatback RED entertainment system.
Finally. Now that the Los Angeles Film Festival and the in-flight entertainment systems on the three Virgin airlines have had it, it's time for everyone to be able to watch the first movie filmed onboard commercial flights...in the air. The film, Departure Date comes from Virgin Produced, who teamed up with Virgin America, Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Australia airlines to shoot and edit the half-hour movie aboard several different flights.
Departure Date, which follows a developing romance between two people who meet on a plane, was entirely shot in nine days on previously scheduled flights over three continents, from Los Angeles to London, Dallas-Fort Worth and Sydney, Australia.