Virgin Atlantic Redesigned Their First A350 Icon – Here’s Why

Virgin Atlantic has revealed its new A350-1000 complete with its flying icon. Replacing the Varga Girl, Zadie is the first of five new icons that will be appearing on Virgin’s newest aircraft. However, there have been some significant changes since we originally saw Zadie earlier in the year. We asked Virgin why.

Virgin Atlantic A350 icon
Zadie has made an appearance on the A350. Photo: James Oats | @SpeedbirdUK

Virgin’s new A350-1000 has had a busy week. Having arrived in London from Toulouse just recently, the shiny new aircraft has headed off to the Virgin hangar at London Gatwick to have its finishing touch applied – the first new Virgin flying icon. But she’s not the same as the original reveal… here’s why.

The evolution of the Varga Girl

The ‘flying lady’ icon has been part of the Virgin Atlantic brand for decades. Inspired by the nose art of WWII aircraft, the original lady was designed by Alberto Vargas, a Peruvian artist, hence the ‘Varga Girl’ moniker. However, with the current refresh of the fleet underway, Virgin decided it was high time for a redesign.

Working with Toby Tinsley, who has also developed graphics for Virgin Galactic and Virgin Voyages, the airline has spent three months perfecting the new designs. Everything has come under scrutiny during this process, from the pose and angle of the figures to the size and position of the flag. The first icon to be applied to an aircraft is known as ‘Zadie’.

Toby Tinsley
Toby Tinsley supervising the application of the decal. Photo: Virgin

When Virgin first released their concept designs of the new icons, Zadie looked quite different.

Virgin Atlantic Icon
The original concept for Zadie. Photo: Virgin Atlantic

As we can see in the final design, there’s a fair bit that’s been changed about her. For a start, she’s wearing more clothes. Her pose is also very different, as are her face and hair.

Virgin A350 icon
Zadie has changed a bit. Photo: James Oats | @SpeedbirdUK

Simple Flying reached out to Virgin Atlantic to find out why the new icon was so different. They said,

“The Flying Icons we released earlier this year were early iterations of our icons and we’re now thrilled to introduce the final image on our first aircraft, Red Velvet.  Whilst the design details may have changed slightly, the concept is very much the same – images that feature a diverse range of men and women who represent modern Britain.  We’re proud to have these on-board our new A350-100s which will be in the skies from September.”

We also spoke to Toby Tinsley, the designer for the new icons. He commented that,

“The change in design is to bring the icons into today’s environment – modern, appealing to all types of passenger, although harking back to the style of nose-cone art, they are not a classic blonde pin-up – that image is now too dated. We wanted to create a diverse range of people which reflect the diverse range of Virgin Passengers, and diverse range of people who work for Virgin.”

Virgin Atlantic Icon
Rey will become the second new Virgin Atlantic icon. Photo: Virgin Atlantic

The next A350 will have the Rey icon. They then follow the order Daley, Oscar and finally Meera, who will not be making an appearance until 2020. We’re looking forward to seeing the final designs of these icons too!

Getting the icon onto the aircraft

Applying a big decal like this to an even bigger aircraft is no mean feat. Anyone who has attempted to add a sticker to something simple like a car or bike will know the challenges the team will have faced.

In order to get the application just right, the team first washed the area with alcohol wipes to ensure there were no specks of dirt or dust under the decal. The icon is so large that it had to be printed in four sections; these were taped together to ensure perfect application.

Virgin A350 icon
The application had to be done with great care. Photo: Virgin

Bubbles can be a big problem when adding stickers to any surface, so to get over this issue, the Virgin decal has microholes in the surface to prevent air from becoming trapped underneath. The icon was applied from back to front to minimize exposure to airflow too.

You can watch the application of ‘Zadie’ on Virgin’s first A350, G-VLUX Red Velvet, in the video below

The flag’s upside down!

Some have commented that the flag is upside down. Indeed, when looking from the right-hand side of the plane, it is. Those in the know will realize that the thicker white stripe should be on the right side of the red diagonal cross going clockwise.

Union Jack
The Union Jack. Photo: Pxhere

However, if you look at the plane from the other side, the flag is correct. This is down to the way the icons are printed and the fact that the left and right icon is a mirror image of the other side. Thus, one side will always have an ‘upside down’ flag, and the other will always be correct. In fact, this is a correct representation of the way the flag is flown from flagpoles, which will also appear to be upside down when viewed from one side.

Virgin A350 with icon
The finished result, isn’t she pretty? Photo: Virgin

The only way Virgin could have got around this would have been to have printed each decal from a separate design. This would likely have been time-consuming and costly, therefore a mirror image / reverse print was preferable. And, really, does it matter? It’s a Virgin Atlantic A350-1000 for goodness sake; I think we can forgive them a slightly incorrect Union Jack!