People are often curious about where these names come from. Virgin Australia planes are all named after bodies of water and the beautiful beaches that hug Australia’s coastlines, while the Virgin Atlantic names are often a nod to Virgin’s musical roots with Virgin Records.
When we launched Virgin Atlantic in 1984, it wasn’t common practice to give an actual name to an aircraft – instead relying on the official registration code. However, we wanted to add a bit of personality to the fleet - and help out our engineering and operations teams - by giving each plane a proper name.
Back in ‘84, Virgin Records was the biggest independent music label in the world so we decided to honour this legacy by naming new additions to the fleet after some of our favourite bands and songs. This includes the likes of Uptown Girl, Strawberry Fields, Ruby Tuesday.
In September, Virgin Atlantic’s new A350 aircraft will take to the skies. One of the first planes will be flying from London to New York under the name Mamma Mia – inspired by ABBA’s pop hit. As a cherry on top, Virgin Atlantic will often request a registration for the aircraft that ties in with the name. In this case, G-VPOP.
Mamma Mia won’t be the first Virgin Atlantic aircraft with a name where the registration resonates with music. Some of my favourites include Scarlett O-Hara (G-VWND) inspired by Gone With The Wind, Lady Stardust ( G-VUFO) in tribute to David Bowie and Pretty Woman (G-VROY), which reminded us of Virgin Records legend Roy Orbison.
In total, we’ll be welcoming 12 A350s to the fleet by 2021. I’m looking forward to hearing all the different names in store and seeing the brilliant upgrades that have been designed across all of the cabins onboard. It’s also an exciting step on the airline’s journey to build a more sustainable fleet. The A350 will be 30 per cent more fuel and carbon efficient than other models. It is also set to reduce the airline’s noise footprint by more than half.
As the Virgin family continues to expand, the exciting titles are extending beyond the skies. I felt like a bit of a proud dad in 2018, when the team from Virgin Voyages told me of their plans to name our very first ship - Scarlet Lady - after one of our earliest Virgin Atlantic aircrafts.
Another exciting moment for the Virgin family was back in 2016 when Virgin Galactic’s spaceship, VSS Unity, was named by Professor Stephen Hawking during the spaceship’s unveiling ceremony. I’ll never forget his moving speech where he explained what inspired the name:
"We are entering a new space age and I hope, this will help to create a new unity. Taking more and more passengers out into space will enable them and us to look both outwards and back, but with a fresh perspective in both directions. It will help bring new meaning to our place on Earth and to our responsibilities as its stewards, and it will help us to recognise our place and our future in the cosmos – which is where I believe our ultimate destiny lies.”
It’s touching to reflect on these moments of unity – between humans and the cosmos, but also simply between the wonderful Virgin companies. With that in mind, I’m off to do a bit of star-gazing and listen to a record or two.