Flying to Washington for 20 years

‘Washington inaugural - will we push back on time?’ I uncovered this photo recently of yours truly on the tarmac ahead of Virgin Atlantic’s first ever flight to Washington. Now I’m heading to the US capital to mark 20 years of flying to Washington, and for our second Business is an adventure event.

As you can see in the photo, we weren’t shy on highlighting some US-friendly icons for the launch. I had a great time dressed as Uncle Sam, while Virgin Atlantic’s plane was called First Lady. And in case you are wondering, yes, we did push back on time! Although dressing up, having fun and getting publicity is extremely important when you are doing an inaugural flight, the one thing you can’t afford to be is late – especially if you have everybody waiting on the tarmac.

Tomorrow, April 26th, I will be joined by some of Washington, D.C’s most renowned business leaders and exciting start-ups: Kevin Plank from Under Armour; Donna Harris from 1776 and Sheila Johnson of Salamander Hotels & Resorts and Vice Chairman of Monumental Sports & Entertainment. We’ll be discussing how the desire to create change drives businesses to succeed.  

That’s exactly what we had in mind 20 years ago when we sought to transform the airline industry with great service and innovation. Since then, we’ve prided ourselves on being a disruptor, leading the industry as a force for change in the air, on the ground, and in the community. We’ve recently introduced our brand new 787 Dreamliner on the Washington route, as well as a refurbishment of our Dulles Clubhouse. This is part of a commitment we made in 2015 to invest £300 million pounds in our customer experience by 2018 – which also includes fleet-wide WiFi and enhancements to our food and beverage service.

But our relationship with our customers extends beyond the airport. We recognise something very special in the DC market – that honest desire to create change and make a difference in the world. It’s an amazing time to be a start-up in DC - the entrepreneurial scene is soaring here. We’re thrilled to be a part of it by enabling transatlantic travel and the sharing of ideas globally. You can hear how on the livestream here on April 26th at 14.30 EST.

For the last word, I wanted to share the views of a few of our team who have been with us in Washington for many years. Shawn Somerville, who is now our airport manager in Atlanta, has been with Virgin Atlantic for nearly 20 years and was duty manager at Dulles when we first started flying there. She remembers the inaugural better than me: “It resembled a scene from a movie. The new staff members looked fabulous in their uniforms. As they paraded through the airport, heads turned and mouths open in admiration. Some spectators who were hypnotized by Virgin’s striking appearance, became detached from their current task and incidents of men walking into pillars / doors was a regular occurrence.”

Kathy Nasery, Concierge and Clubhouse Services Manager at Dulles Airport, has been with Virgin Atlantic for 15 years. She says that when she asks passengers why they keep flying with us, they say: “Because Virgin is the only airline that got it right.” Finally, Fi Adat, Airport Manager at Dulles Airport, has been with Virgin Atlantic for 21 years, and in Washington for 9 years. Fi remembered a party all the crew ended up at in London at my house in Holland Park. Apparently I was the perfect host, but it was one of those parties that was so good I can’t remember it!

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