A Cancelled Flight Led To The Creation Of Virgin Atlantic

Virgin Atlantic has, for more than three decades, been the disruptor in long haul travel. Starting with a single 747 and a cramped office in London, the airline has risen to become one of the most desirable ways to cross the Atlantic. But did you know that the entire company might never have come about if it wasn’t for the day Richard Branson’s flight got cancelled?

Virgin Atlantic 747
Virgin Atlantic might never have been if Branson’s flight wasn’t canceled. Photo: Virgin Atlantic

When Richard got bumped

The story goes that Richard Branson was waiting for a flight in Puerto Rico to the British Virgin Islands when he was advised there would be no flight. There were too few passengers, and therefore the flight was canceled.

Branson is not a man to take no for an answer, so he decided to take matters into his own hands. He said,

“I had a beautiful lady waiting for me in BVI and I hired a plane and borrowed a blackboard and as a joke I wrote Virgin Airlines on the top of the blackboard, $39 one way to BVI. I went out round all the passengers who had been bumped and I filled up my first plane.”

Richard Branson
Richard Branson decided to take matters into his own hands. Photo: Virgin

The story then goes that, on arrival, someone joked that if he sharpened up his services a bit, he could be in the airline business. That got the old grey matter working, and gave Branson the impetus to consider doing it again.

Having seen how easy it was to fill a plane, and feeling somewhat disheartened with the aviation industry’s lack of care for its passengers, Branson decided to do it again. He secured a Boeing 747 as his initial transportation, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Very Branson

Richard Branson has always been known as an innovator. In his blog, he affirms how he takes things that irritate him and looks for better ways to do it. He said,

“My biggest sources of inspiration for new business ideas are the things that frustrate me – I know if something is annoying me, then there is usually a problem to solve or a better way of doing something.”

Anyone who’s been bumped from a flight or had an unexpected cancellation to deal with can certainly relate. In a world where airline passengers can often feel little more than a number on a mandate, Virgin Atlantic has always strived to go above and beyond for its customers.

Richard Branson
Virgin Atlantic had just one 747 when it started service. Photo: Virgin

Starting an airline because he was frustrated with how other airlines were treating him is a very Branson move. It’s shone through into other areas of his business too, from Virgin Media, his communications company, to Virgin Holidays and, of course, the original record label.

The innovation continues, as Virgin has now launched its own cruise line – Virgin Voyages – which promises to deliver something a bit special compared to other cruise companies. And then, of course, there’s Virgin Galactic, which promises to be whisking people up into space in the next few years.

Virgin Atlantic, as an airline, has always done things a bit differently, and has built a loyal following as a result. Branson’s ideas and inspiration taken from that first bumped flight have been instrumental in making the airline what it is today.

Do you love Virgin Atlantic as much as us? Let us know in the comments!