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In an interview with our big bro, Conde Nast Traveler, Sir Richard Branson was asked if there were any new ideas he'd been kicking around for his airlines. His response, on the surface, was seemingly directed at improving family travel:
"I would love to introduce [a] kids' class," Branson said. "It would be a separate cabin for kids with nannies to look after them. We’ve had an issue with the Civil Aviation Authority. They worry in an emergency kids would be running in one direction and their parents would be running in the other. So we haven’t got it through yet."
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Ever heard of the St. Petersburg-Tampa Airboat Line? We're guessing probably not, but the Smithsonian sure has; the seaplane carrier is classified as the world's first airline, which inaugurated commercial air service in 1914 when it took off with one paying passenger. It may have been a short journey (only 23 minutes!), but the Airboat Line's impact extends to today as commercial aviation has become a $2.2 trillion dollar industry, employing over 57 million people.
In 2014, the world celebrates 100 years of commercial air travel, but that's not all.
In this last century, airlines and airplanes have evolved into a fact of everyday life for travelers, and some of the pioneering companies will mark milestones this year. Here's who to wish "happy anniversary":
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In the midst of the bustle of travel, it's all too easy to overlook the details. We're talking about special touches others have stressed over just so you can enjoy a unique experience, whether you know it or not. Every so often we'll highlight The Little Things like this, so now you will know.
The Little Thing: A dedication to serving Lanson Black Label champagne in Upper Class on Virgin Atlantic.
You've just settled back in the leather seat, put your smartphone on "airplane mode," and flipped open the Upper Class in-flight menu. Before you can turn to the extensive list of options "from the bar" on this Virgin Atlantic flight (and yes, there is a real bar), a flight attendant sashays your way with a tray of bubbly.
It's a scene now so signature to Virgin Atlantic service, this stylish pour of Lanson Black Label Brut accompanied by a scarlet smile, but it hasn't always been that way.
The coupe-shape glass was first introduced onboard Virgin Atlantic flights with the revamp of the A330 bar in 2012, but the glass is now part of all Upper Class services regardless of aircraft type. The long, thin stem topped with a sultry bowl evokes the glamor of old Hollywood, and champagne bubbles look damned fine in it.
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The Virgin Atlantic look is sharp, iconic, sizzling; there’s no denying the head-turning appeal of a crisp white blouse tucked into a scorching red pencil skirt, topped off with red heels. But, with the celebration of the airline’s 30th Anniversary this year, it’s about that time for a snazzy refresh so as to continue “flying in the face of ordinary,” as the airline’s slogan goes. For this, Virgin Atlantic paired with UK designer and punk powerhouse Vivienne Westwood. The new uniforms were just unveiled July 1 in London, and will roll out for all Virgin Atlantic staff, from cabin crew to flight crew, and desk agents to Clubhouse hospitality.
Alas, a flash of the new uniform as it swishes down the airplane aisle isn't enough to appreciate the detail. Aside from the fact that it’s now easier to care for with a new tech “nano finish" (the earlier uniform was dry clean only) and yarn made from recycled plastic bottles, there are small secrets hidden in every dart and under each lapel, telling the story of the collaboration between England’s flag-carrying airline and one of the country's most iconic fashion influences.
Although the uniforms don’t officially take flight for the entire Virgin Atlantic fleet until September 1, keep an eye out for a preview on your next VS flight; crew have been heading to the airline’s Base near Gatwick Airport to pick up their full looks since this past weekend. Here's what to look for:
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We come across some downright awesome airline amenity kits in our travels, and the surprises of each zippered pouch can often make or break comfort on a premium flight. With this in mind, here's to our new series: Inside the Amenity Kit, wherein we unzip, unwrap, and expose the loot inside:
It's crazy to think that a passenger flying Virgin Atlantic's Upper Class could be in for more treats after experiencing the delights of the airline's airport Clubhouses, but it's true. Following a spa treatment, cocktails, and a full hot dinner (all complimentary) at the JFK Clubhouse, for example, Upper Class flyers then settle into the full-flat seats onboard and are handed an amenity kit (plus a small, appetizer snack bowl of Tyrrell's crisps).
The grey felt pouch has a looped leather-like strap and an interior lined in Virgin's signature scarlet. It's made of recycled materials, plus it's unisex, chic, and easy to reuse for purposes beyond stashing your in-flight amenities. In plainer terms, it's just right.
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Virgin Atlantic used the occasion of its 30th birthday a few days ago (the airline flew its inaugural flight on June 22, 1984) to announce where it will be sending its first Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner when it joins the fleet this fall: Boston. Appropriately enough, the airplane will be called “Birthday Girl."
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Earlier this month, we were spending a few early morning hours at Sydney Kingsford Smith International Airport in the (pretty fabulous) Qantas First Class Lounge, which aside from rather swank surroundings comes with great views of the apron and city.
Sitting in one of the window-facing seats, watching aircraft taxiing here and there, we spotted an Airbus A340-600 being towed away with the Sydney skyline in the distance. At first, we didn’t think much of it among the rest of the aircraft movements, only realizing when we focused on the branding that we were in fact watching something a little more significant; this was one of the very last Virgin Atlantic aircraft to touch Australian soil, as the service from London discontinued just a few days later.
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After all the hype (and drama) with the introduction of Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner, this summer should see the arrival of another 787 sibling to the family, the 787-9. Like the long-wheelbase version to the existing 787-8, Air New Zealand will be the first to fly it, but Virgin Atlantic is hoping to get their hands on the first few of their order list too.
While the airline hasn’t formally announced launch routes yet, it did brainstorm possible destinations way back when the aircraft order was placed, before being hit with its years of production delays.
So what will it be? In addition to replacing older aircraft for routes in its existing network (we wouldn’t be surprised if it goes head to head with some of the choices British Airways has made), Virgin mentioned routes of London to cities like Bangkok, Melbourne, Rio de Janeiro, Seattle, Toronto, and Vancouver.
At this point we have to assume that airline safety videos are in production pretty much all the time, as it seems that each and every week another airline is revealing their creative take on getting the message out. This week it’s Virgin Atlantic and their safety film. It’s their animated take on things, and it pays tribute to plenty of past themes and ideas from your favorite movies.
You might need to head to the break room for a second cup of coffee this morning before you watch the whole thing, as this video clocks in at almost a solid six minutes in length. We think this is the first major update to the carrier’s pre-flight safety announcements in over a decade, and we’ve got to say they did a good job.
The next time you are pre-departure wining and dining at Virgin Atlantic's Upper Class Lounge in Heathrow, keep an eye out for staff sporting Google Glass. Since we know that there's nothing fashionable as yet about Google Glass other than its rarity, Virgin Atlantic is dispatching the fresh tech for its functionality.
For the next six weeks, the airline will be providing a seamless customer service experience with the help of Glass. Lounge staff will have the ability to give passengers flight information, weather at their destination, and even translate foreign languages on the go. Of course all that can come from a simple Google Search, but Glass has the cool aspect to it. Eventually, Google Glass would even be able to inform staff of a returning guest's dining preferences or favorite drinks, providing a personalized experience.
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Almost everything that's been said has been said, so here's the news plain and simple: the royal baby arrived today to parents Prince William and Kate Middleton.
While royal watchers and much of the UK catches their breath, brands are racing to express their well wishes. Of course airlines are getting in on the action, taking to Instagram and Twitter. Here's a few who've likely already sent little wooden toy airplanes to the hospital:
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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).