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Branson pimps up A380′

No task is undertaken by Richard Branson half-heartedly. 

Thus, when the British billionaire decided that Virgin Atlantic would purchase and fly the Airbus A380, his goals were to revive the golden age of aviation—the times when flying was something exceptional and an experience in and of itself—but with a contemporary and distinctly Virgin spin. 

The 12-A380s that Virgin Atlantic had ordered might have been equipped with A mini-casino with blackjack tables and a roulette wheel was located in the mini-gym where passengers could work off excess weight while they crossed the Atlantic (a different way to lose a different sort of pounds) 

a salon in the clouds offering services including facials, manicures, hair styling, and other sorts of pampering 

70 contiguous business class suites, resulting in 35 “private double beds”

At the formal launch and introduction of the A380 in Toulouse, France on January 2005, Branson said, “Since you have games and you have private double beds maybe there are two ways of getting lucky on a Virgin airline.”

We have built our reputation on innovation, and the A380 will enable us to provide our customers a novel flying experience. 

the Airbus A380’s debut in 2005 in its first month of production. 

the Airbus A380’s debut in 2005 in its first month of production. 

The most expensive tickets on Virgin were still for “Upper Class” business class suites, where affluent passengers could take in the A380’s numerous diversions as they flew from London to the USA. This was in contrast to most other airlines, who planned to go all out with a luxurious first class cabin. 

Branson didn’t overlook the passengers traveling in economy, saying that they will also have access to the gym and the gambling lounge. 

At a news conference with Rolls-Royce, Airbus, and the engine industry, he declared, “I think huge is beautiful.” The only way to reduce the price of air travel for clients in economy class is to implement it. 

There would also be a demand for larger airplanes due to the lack of available takeoff and landing slots at the major airports throughout the globe. 

Branson expressed optimism about the superjumbo, saying “Just as Boeing believed the 747 to be the future, so does Airbus believe the A380 to be. 

Perhaps adding to his enthusiasm was the fact that British Airways, his arch-enemy, did not purchase an A380 until 2007. This gave him the opportunity to boast that Virgin Atlantic was the “first UK flag-carrier” to purchase the superjumbo and prevented British Airways from joining the A380’s launch customer list. 

A380 that is still larger 

Virgin Atlantic’s first A380 was scheduled to arrive in 2008, but by 2007, Branson was leaning for an even larger version of the aircraft, an extended type that Airbus called the A380-900 as opposed to the original A380-800. 

Branson said at the time that he’d prefer to wait until the super-superjumbo arrived around 2015, based on Airbus’ estimates for the since-scrapped variant. “Ideally, we’d like Airbus to stretch them, because for the A380 to be really competitive it needs to be even bigger than it currently is,” he said. 

However, Branson and Virgin’s London headquarters received promotional scale models of A380s painted in Virgin Atlantic livery as part of a sales pitch from Airbus. 

In 2013, Virgin’s then-CEO Craig Kreeger announced that the company had “delayed them again again” and set a new delivery date of 2018 while focusing on modern, fuel-efficient aircraft such the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and eventually the Airbus A350. 

“Seeing a future in which we wish to use the (A380) is difficult, but not impossible, Kreeger acknowledged. The decision is not obvious. 

That decision was eventually made, though, due to the concurrent increase in fuel prices and the negative balances on Virgin’s books. 

“We just can’t find enough markets that made sense for an airplane that enormous, and it didn’t make sense to accept only one or two because of fleet complexity,” Kreeger observed. As a result, the “Flying Lady” A380s were formally taken off of Airbus’ order book in March 2018.

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