Touchdown in Tampa Bay for Virgin Atlantic

Richard Branson, Shai Weiss and Virgin Atlantic crew on the Tampa Inaugural flight
Adam Gasson
Virgin Galactic
Richard Branson's signature
Published on 3 November 2022

In 2000 I was in Tampa Bay to receive the great aviation honour of the Tony Jannus Award. I remember saying I’d love Virgin Atlantic to fly here one day. Well, fast forward to 2022 and here we are!

We chose our first ever route between London Heathrow and Tampa Bay to launch our brand-new A330neo, named Billie Holiday. After our guests were fittingly serenaded by musicians on-board, I got my first taste of the A330neo experience, including our new Retreat Suite and Upper Class cabin.

Richard Branson with Shai Weiss and Virgin Atlantic crew in Tampa
Adam Gasson

Virgin Atlantic already operates the youngest, cleanest fleet in the sky, and our new planes mark another major new step forward. They are 11% more fuel and carbon efficient than the A330-300 they replace and will deliver a 50 per cent reduction in airport noise contour.

As well as marking the environmental milestones, we also celebrated Tampa Bay’s sporting prowess with the mascots from the Buccaneers, the Lightning and the Rays. Bucs quarterback Tom Brady was kind enough to send a best wishes message. I wore a Bucs jersey to continue my pirate-themed week after a swashbuckling Halloween onboard Virgin Voyages, and Shai donned the Lightning’s shirt too.

Richard branson with Shai Weiss in front of a VirginAtlantic plane in Tampa
Adam Gasson

Next, there was time to catch up with Delta CEO Ed Bastian. Delta are such fantastic partners and I hadn’t had chance to see Ed in person since before COVID. Alongside Air France-KLM, our expanded joint venture means customers across the US and Europe can connect seamlessly onto our new service via Heathrow.

Then we joined Mayor of Tampa Jane Castor and CEO of Tampa Airport Joe Lopano, to share more about why Virgin Atlantic is so excited to be here. Tampa Bay has it all; a year-round warm climate, vibrant nightlife, endless attractions and of course some of the world's best beaches in St Pete and Clearwater. Combined with its emerging entrepreneurial mindset, the region simply makes sense for Virgin Atlantic and I can't wait for our customers to experience all it has to offer.

Richard Branson and Shai Weiss with Virgin Atlantic for the Tampa Inaugural flight
Adam Gasson

With three Virgin Atlantic routes in Florida – Miami and Orlando alongside Tampa Bay – plus Virgin Hotels’ home office and future hotel in Miami, and Virgin Voyages’ home port, it’s great to see the brand thriving in the Sunshine State. It's even more exciting to realise you can earn Virgin Points and spend rewards across these companies with Virgin Red! AFter all of the sun and excitement, I couldn’t resist getting out on a jet ski to take in the bay at sunset – just spectacular.

Virgin Atlantic crew members and Richard Branson jetskiing in Tampa
Virgin Atlantic

As ever, I loved getting chance to chat with lots of our team. Our employees are what sets us apart, and it is they who provide our customers with exceptional service. It’s a wonderful time for Virgin Atlantic, with the team being named the UK's most loved workplace by Newsweek – congratulations! Now, I’m off to do some more buccaneering on the high seas…