Happy birthday to us: 37 years old and counting…
And so started our incredible story. It was 37 years ago today, on the 22nd June 1984, that our very first flight – VS1 – departed Gatwick for Newark.
What a day that was. Alongside our first ever customers were Richard and his family, plus a load of 80s celebrities, pop stars and journalists, and 60 crates of champagne. The rest, as they say, is history.
Our ops team didn’t have much of a problem working out the flying schedule that day. We only had one aircraft – G-VIRG, Maiden Voyager. From day one it boasted an unusual feature in the form of ‘The Painter’; an illustration of a man, precariously perched on a painting platform, having dropped his paint pot down the side of the aircraft. This caused quite a stir back then. Quirky paint schemes didn’t exist in the stuffy world of aviation. Eventually, The Painter was removed from the tail after a few incidents where other aircraft had mistaken him for damage to the tail and reported it to air traffic control.
Once our first airport PR stunt was over, the flight took off for what turned out to be a seven hour party at 35,000 feet. It wasn’t until it landed in Newark that Richard discovered that he’d forgotten his passport. Luckily New York Mayor Ed Koch was at the aircraft door to smooth things out.
We’ve come a long way since those humble beginnings, and as much as we’re super proud of everything we’ve achieved, we also love a good old reminisce. Looking back at old pictures and memories from these past 37 wonderful and eventful years brings us great joy. This is why we were so excited to stumble across a wonderful Instagram account called Virgin Atlantic Vintage run by Robbie Lewis.
Robbie’s love of aviation and Virgin Atlantic started when his dad took him to the spectators’ balcony at Gatwick during the eighties. He then flew with us back in 1990 from London Gatwick to Orlando, Florida. “It was a monumental moment; first time flying on a “Jumbo Jet” and the first time visiting the United States.” Said Robbie. “I was eight at the time and that flying experience must have left a mark because aviation has been my passion ever since”.
Robbie has now combined that passion for aviation of the eighties and nineties with his skills as a social media content creator to bring to life memories of those early Virgin Atlantic flying experiences. “Hopefully it will also bring back memories for others. I love anything eighties and nineties and early noughties – the pop culture, music, fashion, news of the day – bringing all that content together under one account can be very therapeutic and nostalgic for anyone”.
So how does Robbie find all this great content? “Pretty much anywhere and everywhere”, he says. “My findings range from seeing what is for sale on eBay – some great Virgin Atlantic timetables, cutlery, Hot Air Magazines, headphone and amenity kits, duty-free gifts, safety cards from the 80s and 90s – that could all somehow at some point feature on the account in some shape or form – to other great memorabilia such as spotter’s photos on Flickr and airhistory.net, YouTube also has a host of great footage as well; Virgin Atlantic adverts from 1984 to 2000, interviews on the airline to enthusiasts filming from back in the day. I’ve also had a fantastic response from crew, ex-crew, passengers and plane spotters sharing their memories and photos”. Among the fans of Virgin Atlantic Vintage are non other than Elizabeth Emmanuel herself – who designed our uniforms back in the early nineties (as well as Princess Diana’s wedding dress). She has even shared some of her early designs and promoted Vintage Virgin on her own account.
The biggest reward for Robbie though has been bringing everyone together. “I’ve seen some comments from ex-Crew who have found each other via the account and sharing memories and good times flying together. The main thing is, without all these amazing contributors the account couldn’t be possible – so thank you for the memories and please keep them coming,” he says. We certainly will. And with so many fabulous memories and familiar faces, it’s a site we’re going to be dipping into for many years to come.
Visit the Virgin Atlantic Vintage Instagram page to follow Robbie and learn more about our history.