As I wrote in Boston, building a brand is really hard work and a labour of love. When Virgin America began flying into Dallas in 2010, we were a new and unfamiliar brand facing fierce competition from local incumbents. We made a splash at our Dallas Fort Worth – I can still remember the longhorn steers roaming the tarmac by our plane.
As the competition intensified, a funny thing happened: consumers tried us and enjoyed our brilliant service, mood lighting, fleet-wide wifi and entertainment so much they fought to keep us flying in Dallas. In 2014 more than 28,000 Dallas locals signed a petition to let Virgin America fly out of Love Field. I wrote my own love letter to Dallas and we won the route. We then returned to thank Dallas flyers and city council members with an epic party and a memorable first flight into Love Field featuring Kacey Musgraves.
Yesterday, two years on, I returned to Dallas to break ground at the future home of Virgin Hotels Dallas. I changed into cowboy boots and hat, hopped onto my trusty horse Pepper, and joined the lovely Miss Texas Caroline Carothers in riding into the new hotel site in Dallas' design district. 500 locals plus Mayor Mike Rawlins, the Dallas Maverick cheerleaders and star player Dirk Nowitzki, food trucks, a live band, and – oddly for me – facemasks of yours truly added to the fun. As I told the crowd, I usually love talking to people and looking at everybody’s beautiful faces. Today I had to look back at hundreds of my own ugly mug!
Bill Hutchinson, Founder of Dunhill Partners, did a wonderful job compering the evening in his inimitable style. He told the crowd he sees me as “a combination of Mick Jagger, James Bond and Dennis The Menace” – I’ll take that! Virgin Hotels Dallas will open its doors at the end of 2018, featuring more than 200 Chambers, a pool deck and bar, a rooftop lounge, and our brand’s flagship space, The Commons Club. As Raul Leal, Virgin Hotels CEO said, we couldn’t have found a more perfect city and neighbourhood for Virgin Hotels.
Dallas is doubly lucky to have Virgin America and Virgin Hotels – two of the US’ most-loved businesses. Virgin America has today been named the Best US Airline in Condé Nast Traveler 29th Annual Readers' Choice Awards. We have taken the top spot for an unprecedented ninth year in a row – every year since the airline began flying. What’s more, Virgin Hotels Chicago has won the Best Hotel in the US. It's great news for the Virgin family all round, as Virgin Limited Edition's Ulusaba was voted number one resort in Africa (and number three in the world) and Kasbah Tamadot was voted number 14 in Africa & the Middle East.
To celebrate our wins, Virgin Hotels and Virgin America have some stunning offers to say thank you to everyone who voted us as the top airline and hotel in the US. I couldn't be more proud of our travel and leisure companies and look forward to returning to Dallas for the next brilliant party: our hotel launch!