The Virgin Atlantic Airlines Airbus A340-642 G-VEIL made its appearance fifteen years ago this month, in spectacular fashion. It rolled out of the Airbus factory in Toulouse, France and took to the skies in its maiden flight on February, 18, 2004. Although it was withdrawn from use just twelve short years later, the aptly named “Queen of the Skies” remains a beloved symbol of a nation and its leader, and a part of history cherished by many. Find out how you can have your own pocket piece of history.
Like other members of Virgin Airlines’ famed “Flying Ladies”, she was branded with a unique name and nose art. According to Virgin Airlines, each of their plane names were creatively chosen, often from musical inspiration (Virgin’s roots reach back to its days as a record label) or cultural significance. The nose artwork was introduced in the 1990s and the famed “Flying Lady” has been a part of the brand’s distinctive look ever since. Each design is a nod to the work of Alberto Vargas, a Peruvian artist, known for his 1940’s pin-ups that were featured in Esquire magazine and adapted as nose art on American and Allied aircraft during World War II.
She was named “Queen of the Skies” to commemorate the centenary of an historic agreement between Great Britain and France called the “Entente Cordiale.” This important understanding resolved long standing disputes and established a diplomatic relationship between the two countries that has stood the test of time. On April 7, 2004, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II named the plane, saying, “ It is fitting that my visit to France should end with this impressive example of Franco-British and European co-operation.”
“I am now delighted, in this Entente Cordiale centenary year, to name this new Airbus for Virgin Atlantic Airways: The Queen of the Skies.” - Queen Elizabeth I
Even though “The Queen of the Skies” was removed from use in 2016, this important symbol of both the historic partnering of two nations and the Virgin Airline brand itself lives on. The plane was decommissioned in 2016 in San Bernardino, CA. It was then sought out by MotoArt , who was able to preserve this piece of aviation history before it was destroyed forever.
With the sale of Virgin Airlines to Alaska Airlines a few years back, many hoped that they would continue to see Virgin’s iconic branding for years to come. Sadly, while Alaska is keeping many distinctive aspects of Virgin’s service, the brand is set to officially retire in 2019.
"It's an incredible honour to have one of our aircraft named by Her Majesty The Queen,” Sir Richard Branson, Chairman of Virgin Atlantic stated. “It's also a tremendous tribute to the hard work and professionalism of everyone at Virgin Atlantic who help us fly the flag for Britain all round the world.”
Each PlaneTag™ is cut out of her fuselage, and as no two snowflakes - or Flying Ladies - are identical, each PlaneTag™ is also unique. The color, thickness and even the wear and tear or visible damage make them one-of-a-kind. These particular PlaneTags™ are a rich purple or pearl white, some with both colors, and feature the “Queen of the Skies” name as well as which numbered tag it is in a series of 10,000. Some buyers prefer to leave the tag attached to the card as the cards themselves are beautiful and perfect for collecting, but some enthusiasts attach them as keychains or luggage tags with the included strong metal loop.
For each “Queen of the Skies” PlaneTag™ sold, $3.00 is donated to The Virgin Atlantic Foundation. This UK registered charity was created in 2003 to support the welfare of children and young people through funds raised from Virgin Atlantic’s community investment program.
In 2010 the Foundation partnered with WE , a movement that brings people together and gives them the tools to change the world. The partnership has been more successful than could ever have been hoped for. WE has been capturing the hearts and minds of Virgin Atlantic staff since the partnership began. In fact, it has inspired Virgin Atlantic employees, partners and customers to raise over $6.38 million (£5 million) for projects at home and overseas.
PlaneTags™ are the way to have a small piece of something rare and beautiful, such as a plane named by the Queen of England herself, to own, enjoy, display and pass down to the next generation.