Sir Richard Branson donned a Jamaica shirt, his best dreadlocks and an imitation spliff as his airline made its inaugural flight to Jamaica.
Branson, friends, customers and press were greeted by government officials and a traditional band on the tarmac as the first Virgin Atlantic flight to Montego Bay touched down.
The twice-weekly service from Gatwick will enable 100,000 more people to travel on the route in it’s first year.
The direct flights between London Gatwick and Montego Bay will be twice-weekly and will operate on a Boeing 747-400.
The new services mean up to 100,000 more visitors travelling between the UK and Montego Bay within the first 12 months.
According to the Jamaican Tourist Board, in the first six months of this year the number of UK visitors to Jamaica rose by 19%, compared with the first half of 2005. April alone saw a record number of UK visitors with an increase of 35% year on year.
Sir Richard Branson, Chairman of Virgin Atlantic, commented:
“Virgin Atlantic is delighted to be jammin’ in Jamaica from today! We are the first UK scheduled airline to arrive in Montego Bay and passengers travelling on the route will now benefit from increased competition, which will ultimately lead to better value for money and quality of service for passengers travelling.
“Montego Bay will be Virgin Atlantic’s 27th route worldwide and its eighth Caribbean route.”
“Virgin Atlantic began services to the Caribbean in 1998 with flights to Barbados, St Lucia and Antigua. In 2003 we launched weekly services to Grenada and Tobago and then in 2004 a twice-weekly service to Cuba and a weekly service to The Bahamas, so our expansion has been phenomenal in less than a decade having flown more than 2.5 million passengers to this region!
“We would like to congratulate the British and Jamaican governments for reaching an agreement that allows this expansion of services to take place.”
Amanda Wills, Managing Director of Virgin Holidays, said:
“I’m really excited about the new flights to Jamaica’s Montego Bay. Virgin Holidays’ customers now have the chance to fly direct on Virgin Atlantic to one of my favourite destinations. Jamaica has it all, the captivating resorts of Montego Bay and Negril, the rhythmic sounds of reggae on the beach, a unique culture and a rich heritage
“As the UK’s largest scheduled tour operator to the Caribbean I’m delighted that Virgin Atlantic’s new service will enhance Virgin Holidays’ offering even further and contribute to the wide choice and flexibility that our brochure offers to holidaymakers.”
Judith Wilcox, Regional Manager for Virgin Atlantic in the Caribbean, commented:
“Since we first started our Caribbean to London routes eight years ago we have had many Jamaicans asking for Virgin flights from their island and I am really looking forward to finally seeing Virgin Atlantic’s 747 on the tarmac in Montego Bay. It’s good to know that not only are we giving Jamaicans a choice but also that Jamaica will see around $45 million flowing into the economy as a direct result of our flights, based on the expected spend of every visitor.”
Monday services to Montego Bay (VS065) will depart from Gatwick at 09.15, arriving at 13.05 into Sangster International Airport. The return flight (VS066) departs at 16.50 and arrives at 07.10 into Gatwick the next morning. Wednesday services depart Gatwick at 09.00 and arrive into Sangster International Airport at 12.50. The return flight departs at 15.50 and arrives into Gatwick at 06.40 the next morning.
All Virgin Atlantic’s Boeing 747-400 aircraft are fitted with the Upper Class Suite. Virgin Atlantic’s Upper Class Suite, consists of a reclining leather seat for take off, a place to sit and eat a proper meal opposite your partner, the longest fully flat bed in the world with a proper mattress for sleeping on, a private onboard bar to enjoy a drink with your friends, a private massage zone and four limousines per return trip - all at a price thousands of pounds less than other airlines’ First Class. The Upper Class experience also includes Drive Thru Check In, the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse, the restaurant style inflight Freedom menu and a state-of-the-art inflight entertainment system.
Virgin Atlantic offers a unique product for Premium Economy passengers. Passengers can enjoy dedicated check in and priority boarding. The Premium Economy seat offers a wider, more comfortable seat with more leg room, a glass of champagne prior to take off, a choice of liqueurs to follow dinner and a state-of-the-art inflight entertainment system. Virgin Atlantic’s Economy class continues to offer passengers value for money and added extras like seat back televisions for all passengers with video on demand.
Virgin Atlantic flies to 27 destinations worldwide, including Jamaica, with services to Mauritius launching next year. The airline carried five million passengers last year and has 33 aircraft in its fleet with an average age of less than six years.