Virgin Atlantic has been operating in Barbados since 1998, so we’re proud to be celebrating our 15th anniversary this year. I like to claim the Caribbean as Virgin Atlantic’s birthplace, with the story of Sir Richard Branson getting stranded in the Virgin Islands, six years before the airline’s inaugural flight in 1984. After learning that his flight to Puerto Rico was cancelled, Branson found that the cost to charter a plane was $2,000, and he could fill the flight for $39 per fellow stranded passenger. He walked around the airport with a borrowed blackboard saying, “VIRGIN AIRWAYS: $39 SINGLE FLIGHT TO PUERTO RICO” and filled every seat. When the plane landed in Puerto Rico, one of the passengers called out to Branson and said, “Virgin Airways isn’t too bad. Smarten up the service and you could be in business!”
“Smarten up the service” he did, and Virgin Atlantic has become a force to be reckoned with in the airline industry. The importance of Barbados to the airline is hinted at, by the word in our name that is often overlooked—ATLANTIC. Over 70% of our seat capacity is across the Atlantic Ocean, and Barbados appears in the top ten ranking of international seat capacity by country. Not only do we have the highest seat capacity from Barbados to London but the number of passengers flying with us has grown this year, driven by healthy increases in our Upper Class cabin. With the combination of our new A330 Airbus aircraft and the familiar, but fully refurbished Boeing 747 on the Barbados route, we expect passenger numbers to continue to grow as they enjoy the service onboard with the longest bar in the sky, our innovative lie-flat beds, Wi-Fi in the sky, and over 300 hours of content on our touch-screen In-Flight Entertainment system.
My role will be to fuel this growth in my capacity as head of sales, marketing and communications for the region. As a native Trinidadian who relocated here from Jamaica, I believe that Barbados is a fantastic base for me both personally and professionally. Although I live almost an hour’s drive from my office, it’s worth it to me to be a two-minute walk from the beach. I’ve also love the different vibes I can find on each coast. From the cool winds and crashing waves of Crane Beach, and the bustling boardwalk on the South, to the calm waters in the West that make it perfect for those still days when a beer with friends is the perfect way to unwind.
We at Virgin think that we have the right products in place to delight our customers in the future. Globally, we’ve recently cleared the final regulatory hurdle for our joint venture with Delta Air Lines, and can begin exploring synergies with them. Regionally, we have the flexibility to adjust our capacity to meet seasonal demand and will continue to reduce our costs, as well as our carbon footprint, with more efficient aircraft. We will make tireless strides to serve our customers at the highest level, and have defined this corporate culture as “Flying in the face of ordinary “ (FITFOO). We’re not prepared to accept the trend of air travel becoming more regular and mediocre. We will challenge ourselves to make any experience with Virgin just that little bit more special, more exciting, more magical.