At the end of a year that has seen Virgin Atlantic launch new routes, move their entire headquarters, and create a brand new series of events, CEO Craig Kreeger reflects on his highs and lows from 2016...
What has been your favourite moment in business this year?
It’s been an incredible year for us, with so many great achievements. Our joint venture with Delta Air Lines has gone from strength to strength and we’ve been able to work together to adapt our schedules to best suit our customers. As a result, Virgin Atlantic will start to fly a daily service between London Heathrow and Seattle from March 2017 and also a daily service from Manchester to New York JFK from May 2017. This really reflects our strong partnership which is focussed on offering customers more travel choices and flexibility. We also successfully brought our Heathrow operations in one terminal, with Delta moving all its flight into our Terminal 3 home, enabling passengers to enjoy one product offering, and connect seamlessly between our two airlines.
However, I think my favourite moment has been that, for the first time, Virgin Holidays and Virgin Atlantic have moved under one roof. The new office, The VHQ, has been designed to be a flexible and dynamic working environment. We’ve been getting some great feedback from our people as a place to work and it’s encouraging even closer working relationships between our two businesses.
What have you been proud of your company for achieving this year?
This year, I’m so proud of our company and our people for really pulling together to deliver the biggest business and technology transformation in our history. In November, we launched AIR4, our new innovative Passenger Service System. This involved a complete overhaul of our passenger and flight operations technology and as a result we can offer our customers a more responsive, personal and uniquely Virgin experience. Air4 touched every area of our business and hundreds of people around Virgin Atlantic worked around the clock to ensure the transition went smoothly. It was all delivered on top of the major projects I’ve already mentioned, and I am so proud of everyone who helped make it happen.
What is the most important thing you’ve learnt in business this year?
If 2016 has taught me anything then it’s to expect the unexpected! This year has been full of surprises – we’ve had Brexit, elections won by the candidate people didn’t expect, lots of sporting surprises and several incidents of freak weather. We’ve also, sadly, seen further terror related incidents, and there has been plenty of political uncertainty too. 2016 has taught us all how important it is to be adaptable and ready to tackle any challenge.
What do you hope to achieve in business next year?
Next year we’re really looking forward to growing our business and our brand to reach new customers in the North West. Manchester is going to be critical for us in 2017 as in March, in addition to our Barbados, Las Vegas, Orlando and Atlanta services; we’re launching new services to Boston, San Francisco and New York JFK direct from Manchester. We’ve also opened our first Virgin Holidays retail store in Manchester and we’re looking forward to taking that from strength to strength.
How will you give something back or pay something forward next year?
In 2017, I’m really looking forward to expanding on our work with our charity partner WE. We’ve partnered with them since 2010 and over the years our people and our customers have raised hundreds of thousands of pounds which go towards its innovative education and development programmes for young people around the world. An integral part of our partnership is WE Day which takes place in London on 22nd March. It combines the energy of a live concert with the inspiration of incredible stories of leadership and change. We’re a headline sponsor and I’m really looking forward to spending the day with all these young people and hopefully inspiring them to make change for good.