On This Day In Finance: June 22 - Virgin Atlantic Takes Off

By Investopedia Staff | June 18, 2009 AAA

On June 22, 1984, newly-founded Virgin Atlantic Airways successfully launched its inaugural flight between London's Gatwick airport and Newark's Liberty airport. The airline was founded by then chairman Randolph Fields and millionaire English industrialist Richard Branson, and has today become a major player in the international airline industry.

The idea to form the airline was Fields', after he saw a need for airline service to the Falkland Islands in the early 1980's, following the Falklands War. However, this original locale was scrapped, and after meeting with Branson, the goal of a transatlantic route to the New York area was born. Following disagreements between the two men over how they felt the airline should operate, Fields was bought out and Branson's Virgin Group took total control over operations.

The vast reach of the Virgin Group contributed greatly to the airliner's initial success, allowing other factions of the conglomerate to ease the financial burden of the startup and build a customer base and reputation.

In 2002, the Virgin Group sold 49% of Virgin Atlantic to Singapore Airlines, but still maintained majority ownership over the company. Today, the airline is a thriving business and major player in the international airline industry. (To learn more, read The Industry Handbook: The Airline Industry.)

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