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Virgin Atlantic's insights into innovation

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Export, Innovation
Virgin's culture of innovation stands as a great exemplar for UK companies, and is respected globally


Hong Kong’s perception of the UK is often associated with British traditions and not a few clichés: Rolls Royce, the Royal family, fish and chips… Whilst we all recognise Britain’s strong heritage for quality and workmanship, we have built on this with many impressively dynamic and ground-breaking companies. So this year in UKTI Hong Kong, we are trying to update our image, focusing our GREAT campaign activity on showcasing British innovation.

Who better then to launch our campaign than serial innovators Virgin Atlantic? Speaking to international and local businesses here in Hong Kong this week, Joe Thompson, the airline’s Senior Vice President for Sales and Distribution gave his insights into how Virgin have continue to innovate.

1.  Build a culture of innovation

Right from recruitment, Virgin’s processes are designed to seek out and nurture individuals who will innovate

2. Welcome the challenge

Tough economic times are when you need your best ideas. Virgin’s Upper Class fully flat-bed seat proved a game-changer in the difficult post-911 climate

3. Compete on your own terms

Small companies can’t compete with the big boys on scale, so innovation is needed to develop a different offer for the customer. Virgin has developed a focus on a high quality customer experience and tailored packages for smaller businesses.

4. Embrace technology

Virgin was the first airline to put seat-back TVs in all classes. They are now pioneering biofuels testing.

5. Focus on what the customer really wants

The airline was the first to introduce premium economy: a move to provide a differentiated customer experience, which has been followed by the rest of the industry.

6. Trial new ideas     

Virgin are continuously trialling new ideas: from testing how easy it is to check passengers in using wearable tech to trying all sorts of ways to speed up the aircraft boarding process.

7. Work with others

Virgin’s transatlantic partnership with Delta includes full profit sharing has transformed the way the organisation works offering better options for customers and more success for the business.

8. Play to your strengths

Raising finance for a smaller company can be challenging. Virgin looked at their strengths and identified a way to leverage their high-value Heathrow slots to raise finance for purchasing aircraft.

9.Expect the unexpected

Or at least, be prepared to respond. Virgin’s clubhouse-style lounge in Heathrow has unexpectedly seen their customers change their travel pattern to spend as much time as possible in their top-class facilities.

 10. Keep moving

The only constant is change. Don’t rest on your laurels, but keep listening, trying new things and taking chances.

You can find global export opportunities on the Exporting is GREAT website. Visit the site for export leads, practical support and inspiration for UK companies who want to grow their business through export


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  1. Comment by David H. Deans posted on

    Build a Culture of Innovation -- it's so true, the path to achieving remarkable (GREAT) results starts and ends there. Those organizations that have harnessed the power to innovate can attract the best young talent -- plus, they'll be able to retain the most experienced and accomplished employees. Virgin continues to demonstrate that British innovators have earned their place in the evolving Global Networked Economy of the 21st century.