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Virgin Atlantic In The Early Days (circa 1985-86)  
User currently offlineAeroWesty From United States of America, joined Oct 2004, 20322 posts, RR: 63
Posted (9 years 1 month 3 weeks 3 days 12 hours ago) and read 6421 times:

People often ask historical questions about their favorite airline in the a.net forums. While sorting through some travel things I've saved, I ran across a pamphlet I'd picked up at the Virgin Atlantic desk in the Virgin Store on Oxford St. in November 1985 that served as their timetable. I ended up not flying Virgin since they could only get me to EWR, and my ultimate destination was LAX, so I arranged for a flight on KLM from Heathrow. I'd only needed a one-way ticket, as I'd flown over standby on TWA to Amsterdam, and just needed a ticket home after an extended stay abroad.

The Flight Times were effective 10 Oct 1985 to 26 Jan 1986, and fares valid through 26 Mar 1986. (Virgin Atlantic had been flying about 18 months at this point, having commenced flights on 22 Jun 1984.)

Flight Times:

Flight VS001 departed Gatwick @ 16:15, arriving Newark @ 18:55
Flight VS002 departed Newark @ 22:15, arriving Gatwick next day @ 09:55
Newark arrivals were at Terminal C. Newark check-in was in Terminal A.


Flight Days:

  • To 15 Dec 1985 flights operated daily except Tuesday and Wednesday

  • 15 Dec 1985 to 12 Jan 1986 flights operated daily except December 25

  • 13 Jan to 26 Jan 1986 flights operated daily except Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday


  • Fares were one-way, with no advance purchase necessary:

  • Economy - £149/$199 (£179/$249 Christmas/New Year's holiday period)

  • Late Saver - £129/$169 (£139/$199 holiday period)

  • Standby - £99

  • Upper Class - £499


  • Late Saver fares were bookable in the UK after the departure of the previous flight, or 48 hours in advance departing from the US.

    Return fares were double plus £3/$3 US departure tax.

    Baggage allowance was 2 pieces with a combined weight not to exceed 30 kgs. In Upper Class you were allowed 3 pieces with a combined weight not to exceed 40 kgs.


    Other bits:

  • Their 747 was named "Maiden Voyager".

  • Their motto: "We cut fares, not corners."

  • The inflight magazine was named "Hot Air".

  • The Upper Class cabin had 14 seats on the upper deck with a seat pitch of 40" and offered footrests. Designed as a penthouse suite, Upper Class also offered a private bar and lounge, a high resolution video monitor, and exclusive washroom facilities.

  • At Newark, Upper Class passengers were offered complimentary helicopter service to either Manhattan or to JFK or LGA airports for onward connections. Limousine service was also available to/from Newark within a 40-mile radius.

  • At Gatwick, Upper Class passengers could choose from either the same limousine service or a first class ticket aboard the Gatwick Express, or a £20 voucher towards car parking at Gatwick.

  • Virgin's frequent flyer plan was simple. For every Upper Class flight made, a voucher was given for a free Economy flight. If you'd rather not fly Economy, you could apply the voucher towards the cost of an Upper Class fare and pay the difference. (This effectively brought the one-way fare for Upper Class to £350 after your first flight.)


  • Now go forth and impress your friends and neighbors with all your Virgin Atlantic knowledge, and win plenty of trivia contests.

    Cheers.


    International Homo of Mystery
    16 replies: All unread, jump to last
     
    User currently offlineRichard28 From United Kingdom, joined Aug 2003, 1595 posts, RR: 6
    Reply 1, posted (9 years 1 month 3 weeks 3 days 12 hours ago) and read 6370 times:

    thanks for the post - how time has changed things!

    interesting to see 40" pitch in upper class - premium economy now attracts a 38" pitch, and upper class has 2 metre + long beds!

    mind you the prices have changed too -oh to be able to get upper class for £499 return - including helicopter transfer!

    damn you inflation !!


    User currently offlineAeroWesty From United States of America, joined Oct 2004, 20322 posts, RR: 63
    Reply 2, posted (9 years 1 month 3 weeks 3 days 12 hours ago) and read 6353 times:

    Quoting Richard28 (reply 1):
    oh to be able to get upper class for £499 return


    You're welcome! The prices above were one-way, double for return.  Smile



    International Homo of Mystery
    User currently offlineCs03 From United States of America, joined Oct 2003, 412 posts, RR: 0
    Reply 3, posted (9 years 1 month 3 weeks 3 days 12 hours ago) and read 6330 times:
    Support Airliners.net - become a First Class Member!

    I took VS from LGW to EWR in July 1986 for o/w in Y for USD$249. (quite a bargain at the time! Great service, and on time!

    User currently offlineAirgeek12 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
    Reply 4, posted (9 years 1 month 3 weeks 3 days 12 hours ago) and read 6297 times:

    Wow.. thanks alot! Talk about a blast from the past! lol. Love the Upper Class frequent flyer program!! haha. Upper class at 499?!?!? Is that some kind of sick joke?!

    Quoting Richard28 (reply 1):
    damn you inflation !!


    My thoughts exactly! :p

    geek


    User currently offlineAeroWesty From United States of America, joined Oct 2004, 20322 posts, RR: 63
    Reply 5, posted (9 years 1 month 3 weeks 3 days 11 hours ago) and read 6213 times:

    Since a couple of folks have mentioned the effects of inflation, I thought I'd take a quick look at how much it would cost to fly essentially the same routes leaving tomorrow. The lowest one-way fares quoted on the Virgin Atlantic website are:

    From LHR to EWR on VS001, 27 Feb 2005:

  • £443.30 Economy (£149 in 1986)

  • £2,456.30 Upper Class (£499 in 1986)


  • From EWR to LHR on VS002, 27 Feb 2005:

  • $705.60 Economy ($199 in 1986)

  • $4,397.60 Upper Class ($666.45 in 1986--converted from £ to $ at the timetable's rate then in effect, about 1.3 to 1)


  • Upper Class fares have gone up 5-6x, and to be fair, it is a much better product (but as noted below, far less valuable in the way of frequent flyer benefits). Basic Economy one-way fares have gone up almost exactly 3x from the UK, and 3.5x from the US (although, to be fair again, book ahead return fares are at about the same price as the lowest available return fare on Virgin nearly 20 years ago). But no Upper Class chopper rides to Manhattan, poo.

    To compare the frequent flyer benefits from 1986 to 2005, 6,916 Flying Club miles earned with an Upper Class one-way fare would require you to fly 3 round trips (41,496 miles) before you'd be eligible to have enough miles for a free return ticket in Economy between New York and London (40,000 mile award). So almost triple the flying for the same basic benefit. That's quite the leap!

    [Edited 2005-02-27 05:28:45]


    International Homo of Mystery
    User currently offlineRichard28 From United Kingdom, joined Aug 2003, 1595 posts, RR: 6
    Reply 6, posted (9 years 1 month 3 weeks 3 days 10 hours ago) and read 6166 times:

    Taking the UK inflation figure of 100.0 in January 1987, and 188.9 in January 2005, and taking the original 1986 fares, they would now be, in "todays money", as follows:

    Quoting AeroWesty (reply 0):
    Fares were one-way, with no advance purchase necessary:

    Economy - £149/$199 (£179/$249 Christmas/New Year's holiday period)

    Late Saver - £129/$169 (£139/$199 holiday period)

    Standby - £99

    Upper Class - £499



    Economy - £149 : now = £281.46 single (£562.92 return)
    Upper Class - £499 : now -= £942.61 single (£1885.22 return)

    we can now purchase economy fares for as little as £195 return in sales, and upper class to the east coast can easily be purchaed in the £1800 bracket when purchasing an advance Z class fare (no helipcopter though on that fare class!)

    so, after consideration, it would seem that inflation has been very fare (excuse the pun) to us jet set!

    Rich

    [Edited 2005-02-27 05:48:37]

    User currently offlineAeroWesty From United States of America, joined Oct 2004, 20322 posts, RR: 63
    Reply 7, posted (9 years 1 month 3 weeks 3 days 9 hours ago) and read 6105 times:

    Quoting Richard28 (reply 6):
    so, after consideration, it would seem that inflation has been very fare (excuse the pun) to us jet set!


    Good catch and interesting analysis. So basically, to retain the same fare in today's dollars as Virgin was offering in 1986, would simply require advance purchase, good timing, and no more of those pesky chopper rides or extravagant free ticket plans.  Smile



    International Homo of Mystery
    User currently offlineLrgt From United States of America, joined Jul 2004, 710 posts, RR: 0
    Reply 8, posted (9 years 1 month 3 weeks 3 days 9 hours ago) and read 6080 times:

    Quoting AeroWesty (reply 5):
    From LHR to EWR on VS001, 27 Feb 2005:

    # £443.30 Economy (£149 in 1986)

    # £2,456.30 Upper Class (£499 in 1986)


    Your comparision is spurious since fare structures have changed dramatically. Now, last-minute trips are the ones that are expensive!

    For the leisure traveler, today to fly VS is NOT more it is half the price *HALF* the price, $200US r/t versus $398US r/t THEN.

    In the good old days fares were fair; but now it is much more complicated, less expensive for some and more expensive for others.



    Don't bring up the NW DC9's unless you have to!
    User currently offlineAeroWesty From United States of America, joined Oct 2004, 20322 posts, RR: 63
    Reply 9, posted (9 years 1 month 3 weeks 3 days 9 hours ago) and read 6061 times:

    Quoting Lrgt (reply 8):
    today to fly VS is NOT more it is half the price *HALF* the price


    Oh you'll get no argument from me on that at all, lol. That's why I qualified my comments with that advance purchase fares were available today that were the same in pounds/dollars as the basic fares Virgin was offering in 1986 (back up there in reply #5.)  Smile

    One of the things I found most interesting out of all this was the Late Saver fares, as once that day's flight took off from Gatwick, the empty seats on the next day's flight began to become discounted. I wouldn't mind seeing that concept return, truth be told.



    International Homo of Mystery
    User currently offlinePM From India, joined Feb 2005, 6840 posts, RR: 64
    Reply 10, posted (9 years 1 month 3 weeks 3 days ago) and read 5824 times:

    One thing that HAS improved since then is their colour scheme!! Big grin

    Hey - that was my first smiley!


    User currently offlineSpike From United Kingdom, joined Feb 2004, 1170 posts, RR: 5
    Reply 11, posted (9 years 1 month 3 weeks 2 days 22 hours ago) and read 5717 times:

    I thought VS inflight magazine was still called 'Hot Air'?
    Its funny how some parts of the airline have not changed from core values. Everything with Virgin must still be seen to be as funky as their day one launch. Almost as if they are doing this to beat BA and government stuffiness. 'We cut fares, not corners' has certainly been stuck to. The inflight music channels are still second to none. And they really love that fake blond in red look of a girl when it comes to staff.
    Virgin reminds you that flying can still be a bit of fun but not quite the golden days. My first Virgin flight was in their Vickers Viscount to Brussels - four engines 4 long haul indeed!  Smile


    User currently offlineKLM11 From United States of America, joined Dec 2003, 182 posts, RR: 1
    Reply 12, posted (9 years 1 month 3 weeks 2 days 18 hours ago) and read 4998 times:

    How many other airlines, besides VS offered, or still offer the complementary helicopter transfer? Pretty Cool!  Smile

    --KLM11



    BENAIRE - The Refined Airline
    User currently offlineRichard28 From United Kingdom, joined Aug 2003, 1595 posts, RR: 6
    Reply 13, posted (9 years 1 month 3 weeks 2 days 17 hours ago) and read 4717 times:

    Quoting KLM11 (reply 12):
    How many other airlines, besides VS offered, or still offer the complementary helicopter transfer?


    Malaysian airlines used to offer a helicopter service from central London into LHR IIRC.

    Dont know if they still do it though.


    User currently offlineVS11 From United States of America, joined Jul 2001, 1062 posts, RR: 0
    Reply 14, posted (9 years 1 month 3 weeks 2 days 12 hours ago) and read 3792 times:

    Thank you so much for the exciting information. In addition to inflation, other factors affecting price would be exchange rates, oil price, general demand for air travel and, of course, revenue management systems. Fare structure was mentioned. Thanks, again.

    VS11


    User currently offlineCrosswind From United Kingdom, joined Nov 2000, 2597 posts, RR: 58
    Reply 15, posted (9 years 1 month 3 weeks 1 day 22 hours ago) and read 3595 times:
    Support Airliners.net - become a First Class Member!

    Some vintage photos and Virgin Atlantic marketing material for anyone interested at The Airchive; dates all the way back to 1984. Lots of other airlines covered, very interesting site.

    Main entrance to the site here;

    Regards
    CROSSWIND


    User currently offlineLTBEWR From United States of America, joined Jan 2004, 12883 posts, RR: 12
    Reply 16, posted (9 years 1 month 3 weeks 1 day 21 hours ago) and read 3576 times:

    I was fortunate to have traveled on the 'Maiden Voyager' G-VIRG, 747-100 service in fall of 1984, EWR-LGW-EWR not long after they started. (that a/c was retired and broken up a couple years ago, pix of it's end aaare in the photo posts). It was a fun experience, with lots of goodies (eye shades, note pads, pens, ect., I think I still have the pad somewhere in my apartment). I believe I paid someting like $300 R/T for my fare. I loved their attitude and style, espceially vs. BA.
    I also took them in 1987 from LHR on a standby basis on a return flight to EWR at their Megastore on Oxford Street, for something like L99/$149 USD + taxes. My last flight on them was in late November/early December 1996 with a late saver ticket I purchased at the mega store in NYC in Times Square, for something like $350 R/T including taxes/fees. That was my first experience with PTV's and loved their uncensored movies, music, etc..
    My 17 y.o niece took Virgin EWR-LHR-EWR last August, this was her first international flight, the longest flight she was ever on, to visit with friends who used to live in the USA and had returned home to the UK, near Manchester. So 2 generations of my family have had the Virgin experience.
    What must be noted about the early days of Virgin Atlantic and why the initially operated between LGW and EWR was due to the failure of Laker. The US and UK governments agreed to a set number of flights to be operated with discounted fares. British Caladonia operated flights (I believe on DC-10's) for over a year, then some charter operation tried for a while, then Virgin as their 1st destination got the special discount airline slots. They, along with PeopleExpress for their UK and later their Brussles services were the first to use part of Terminal C at EWR. A part of the terminal building initally built in the early 1970s was finished up temporarly, and use by them.


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