How Virgin Atlantic are adapting to the new age of travel

Alice Mcginn on her experience creating Virgin Atlantic’s latest campaign

Alice Mcginn

Senior Planner Lucky Generals


I recently took a flight for the first time since March 2020. As I prepared to travel I felt strangely conflicted. Part of me excitedly anticipated the journey, browsing departures, the thrill of boarding a plane, the luxury of being waited on, and the exotic feeling of travelling beyond our shores for the first time in a very long time.

Then I remembered the realities of much of air travel (especially short haul) immediately pre-pandemic, with many operators stripping back and de-bundling every aspect of their service into something resembling a soulless self-service buffet, in which everything came at an extra cost.

Arguably, I was late to the party in taking my flight, as post-pandemic, leisure travel has recovered quicker than expected - with demand back to 2019 levels. It would be easy for travel operators to simply soak up this short-term surge in demand, passively exploiting the resurgent market. Travel brands with an ambition to be successful in the long-term, however, must do more. They must make travel feel special again - by understanding what made it so in the past, and what will make it so in the future.

The excitement I felt for my journey had probably been formed by experiences of flying as a child - a time where snacks, amenity kits and colouring books flowed freely, visiting the cockpit was possible, and the range of in-flight entertainment options were exploding. Virgin Atlantic is one brand that has never forgotten, nor underestimated, that these small touches make a big difference. Whether it’s the pepper pots you’re invited to steal, social spaces in the sky, a cream tea at 35,000 feet or their crew who famously offer a more personal touch. These details are tangible expressions of the brand's difference, which through consistent application have generated positive equity with their customers.

At Virgin Atlantic, building a successful brand for the long-term is partly about holding onto and harnessing the signature style and personal touches which they have always been famous for, but executed from a fresh perspective that is relevant to today's traveller.

Because today’s traveller has changed. The pandemic reminded people just how important travel is. More than just a ‘want’, travel is something people ‘need’ and will prioritise. People are excited to travel again and want to fly with brands who recognise this, making the experience once again feel special and premium - no matter what cabin class they are in.

But the world today's travellers inhabit has also changed. While the pandemic kept us all from taking to the skies, a cultural revolution was taking place on the ground. Virgin Atlantic understands that we have entered a new era of travel in which building a strong brand also means embracing the fact that they have a role to play in the world that extends beyond the airspace between airports.

Virgin Atlantic is leaning into this daunting but exciting new era with their sleeves rolled up - taking responsibility for playing their part in addressing the big issues facing the industry:

Working with partners from both inside and outside the industry to find imaginative and creative ways of doing better for our planet.

To be successful in the long term, travel brands must ensure that everyone feels welcome and can truly be themselves

Alice Mcginn, Senior Planner, Lucky Generals

Making the world open to everyone, no matter who they are, who they love, or where they go. This involves working with destinations, making the case for greater inclusivity, and finding ways to make travel easier and safer for the LGBTQ+ community.

Realising that the lived experience of travel is still difficult for so many, whether that’s due to physical accessibility, or airport processes which question who you are. To be successful in the long term, travel brands must ensure that everyone feels welcome and can truly be themselves.

Putting people at the heart of everything the brand does. From day one, it has always been the people who make Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Atlantic. The beating heart of the business, the soul of the brand and the people who go the extra mile for their customers. Building a successful travel brand for the future also means finding more ways to ensure they can express their true identities too.

In a changed world, these are the big challenges facing the future of the industry that brands must face into if they are to succeed in the long term. Whilst also remembering that people today want brands to recognise their excitement to travel, making it feel special again with small personal touches that make a big difference to their journey.

As I sat in the taxi on the way to the airport for my flight, I realised that whilst 30 years might have passed since flying as a child, I still wasn’t so grown up as to not feel an extra thrill of excitement at realising I’d bagsied a window seat. 

Guest Author

Alice Mcginn

Senior Planner Lucky Generals


Alice started as graduate Planner at DDB and after a glamourous two years of Fast-Fit tyres and cheap credit a career crisis ensued, and she joined the world of Fine Art. Although fun, she realised that selling ugly art to oligarchs wasn’t a sensible life choice so returned to ad land. Since then, she has worked on brands as diverse as, Boots, MoneySupermarket, Cancer Research UK, Vodafone, C&A, and Hugo Boss fragrances, but a particular highlight was developing the GREAT Britain Campaign which gave her a window into the inner workings of Downing Street. Since joining Lucky Generals in 2017 Alice has led the strategy across a range of clients including Co-op and most recently Virgin Atlantic.

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