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Virgin Hotels officially opened their doors to guests in Chicago yesterday and our sister site, HotelChatter, has the first look inside a Virgin guest room, excuse us, chamber for those visiting Chi-town. But if you were expecting to find a replica of a Virgin America airplane, complete with purple mood lighting and singing and dancing employees, you might be disappointed.
The historic building on Wabash has been done over into a very Virgin property, with lots of bright red touches everywhere, from the red tiles in the shower to the red SMEG mini fridge in the chambers, and the bright red coats worn by the lovely lady greeters at the entrance.
And even though the hotel is an American company, there are quite a few tributes to its British heritage--like the London Bridge depicted on the chamber rugs, the Birds and Blokes signs for the bathroom, the bright red telephone booth that serves as the hostess station at the not-yet-opened Miss Ricky's All-American Diner and the Union Jack on the dog bed at check-in. And for some reason, the chamber bed reminds us of Upper Class on Virgin Atlantic.
There's even a wall devoted to Sir Richard Branson in the 203 Coffee Bar (opening in a few weeks) and the history of his Virgin multimedia company, featuring photographs of Branson and his various companies, including Virgin Cola. (RIP.)
While the staff is incredibly happy and relaxed, no one has busted out a robot rap...yet. So if we're talking airlines here, Virgin Hotels feel more Virgin Atlantic than Virgin America but at the end of the day, Virgin Chicago actually wants to be a hub for locals.
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Flight attendants are pretty unique people. Not only can they expertly mix a cocktail at 35,000' with a little turbulence (shaken, not stirred), but they're also trained to snap into action during emergencies and still wave "buh-bye" with a smile at the end of every flight. They're not simply born with the ability; the skills are taught and reinforced through rigorous training, some of which is quite eye-opening.
Here are a few things you probably never would have guessed about flight crews from 5 airlines:
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This isn't just any 787, either. Virgin Atlantic is the first European airline to welcome the longer, cooler 787-9 to their fleet, and they do so on their own 30th birthday as an airline, hence the aircraft's name, "Birthday Girl" G-VNEW.
Inside are 198 Economy, 35 Premium Economy, and 31 Upper Class seats, plus a new "Wander Wall" concept in Premium Economy. This is essentially a snack-and-chat station, since the bar is reserved for Upper Class only. Speaking of that barit's been redesigned to fit within the 787-9, but you'll still be able to pop on a barstool and order a Virgin Redhead somewhere 38,000' above the Atlantic Ocean. Instagram it instantly, thanks to long-haul in-flight WiFi onboard.
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It feels like forever ago that the future existence of Virgin Hotels was teased. In reality it was only 2010, and finally there's a solid opening date. The first Virgin Hotel will open in Chicago in January 2015, and roomsexcuse us, "Chambers"just went on sale from $209 per night.
For everything we know about Virgin Hotels to this minute, you'll want to check out the HotelChatter story, because right now we're pretty distracted by the tasty news that hotel stays will work with flights towards your frequent flying totals. The NY Times tucked this tidbit into the very end of their story:
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Well, it was lovely while it lasted. After 1.5 years of flying, Virgin Atlantic's regional subsidiary Little Red is calling it quits. The goodbye will be a long one, however; the airline won't send its last A320 into the UK skies until September of 2015, making its total lifespanfrom launch in April 2013 to close in September 201529 months.
Issues contributing to the demise include too much point-to-point travel versus connecting to Virgin Atlantic long-hauls from London, and too few slots to truly compete with British Airways on the routes. Both of these reasons go against the whole goal of starting Little Red, which was to offer travelers connecting flight service from other UK town into the Virgin Atlantic long-haul jets in London, and to offer "consumer choice on key domestic services after British Airways' takeover of bmi gifted them a monopoly on these routes."
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Sometimes it’s hard to stay on top of all the new route announcements that come our way, so we’ve complied a little bit of a rundown below. As long as you can afford the fares, this should definitely help add to your passport stamp collection.
· Cathay Pacific:
Heading to Hong Kong is about to get a little bit easier, as Cathay Pacific is preparing for some new nonstop flights to and from the nifty fifty. This time they will be departing from Boston on their way to Hong Kong, and it looks like things are scheduled to takeoff for the first time on May 3, 2015. Once the necessary government seals and stamps are in place the flights will do their thing four times per week, and the flying fun will be completed thanks to some Boeing 777-300ER—complete a true first class cabin!
· Virgin Atlantic:
Great news for those who call the Motor City home, as it looks like Virgin Atlantic is putting the pieces in place for a new route across the pond. The plan is for the carrier to do the nonstop thing between Detroit and London beginning during the summer of 2015. Obviously things can change between now and then, but it does sound like this should be a daily option.
Vivienne Westwood has every reason to celebrate this month, as it's more than just time to show her next collections during Fashion Month but it's also the time when thousands of Virgin Atlantic staff begin wearing her designs for their new uniform.
The revamp, launched this year as part of the fanfare around Virgin Atlantic's 30th Anniversary, first debuted back in July and his slowly showed up on Upper Class crew and beyond since. September 1 marked the date for full rollout, and you can expect the crew of your next Virgin Atlantic flight to be sporting the shiny duds, all inspired by Westwood's actual runway collections.
To know exactly what to look for, check out our full gallery and details of the new uniforms and, of course,
[Photos: Jaunted, Virgin Atlantic]
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This year's 30th Anniversary of Virgin Atlantic combined with the launch of the airline's snazzy new Vivienne Westwood-designed uniforms means more than just partytime in the skies on VS; these milestones will also bring about a revamped beauty and grooming guide for the already fresh and polished Virgin crew.
You see, when a new hire receives their uniform, they're also handed a Virgin-produced book titled Runway. It's essentially a guide to the "Virgin Atlantic look" regarding how to wear the uniform, suggested hair styles, and the like. It's meant for maintenance employees, gate agents and Clubhouse staff just as much as for cabin and flight crew, but the pages dedicated to the minutiae of a flight attendant's jet setting lifestyle are among the most enlightening.
Runway is right now in the process of being updated, but there are some choice sections worth preserving for all.
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: