21 Mar 2013

Virgin Atlantic, updated - still red hot

Casino Royale
The pin-up girl, called the Scarlet Lady, carrying the Union Jack is seen on every Virgin aircraft. 
Mi6-hq.com reported in late 2011 that Virgin Atlantic would once again be flying Bond in Skyfall. I thought it appropriate to look at the airline's previous engagements with the Bond series and I have now updated the post to include Skyfall. Virgin has featured in all three of Craig's film. Casino Royale 2006, marked the change not only from Brosnan as Bond, but also from British Airways as Bond's choice of airline (featured in Die another day and GoldenEye).
Virgin's Airbus A340-600 seen in the background
Even though Bond never flies with Virgin in the film, several airplanes and a Virgin Atlantic catering truck can be seen during the action at Miami airport. The airplanes featured in the film are all the biggest and longest in the Virgin fleet. All the scenes were filmed at Prague International airport doubling for Miami, something that becomes obvious when, at one point, a plane from Czech airlines (CSA) is seen in the background. This airline does not fly to Miami.
Virgin's Boeing 747-400
Sir Richard Branson, the founder and owner of Virgin even has a cameo in the film. Branson is being searched by a security guard when the terrorist enters the airport, watched by Bond. Since British Airways and Virgin Atlantic have been bitter rivals for many years, both the Virgin airplanes and Sir Richard himself were edited out of the in-flight movies shown on board of all British Airways flights. No hard feelings eh?

Quantum of solace
Bond and Mathis are flying to Bolivia in pursuit of Dominic Greene. They have chosen the upper class at Virgin Atlantic, which can be described as other airlines first class sections. The upper class features a bar and other amenities like seats converting to fully flat beds. The overhead compartments indicates that they are supposed to be flying on a Boeing 747.
Bond is spending most of his time in the bar during the flight. A flight attendant is behind the bar with a Virgin name tag visible. He is serving Bond Vespers made from Smirnoff black, Gordon's gin (for the UK market) and Lillet Blanc. The bottles, among others like Bacardi and J&B can be seen in the bar. Bond drinks at least six Vespers instead of sleeping and still manages to look more alert than Mathis upon their arrival in La Paz. It must be the suit...
                             "Six of them..."
                                       -Flight attendant to Mathis-

The logo is visible behind Bond in the cabin but a Virgin airplane is never seen in the film. Quantum qualifies as one of the worst films in the series (together with Die another day and Diamonds are forever), due to the poor story, extreme cutting, lack of dialogue and too much action. It is a pity that a scene with a Virgin airplane in-flight or filmed landing in Bolivia (similar to the scene in Die another day) didn't appear in the film.
Upper class at the Boeing 747-400
Since Virgin does not fly to any destinations in South America (a factual error in the film), it is possible that Bond and Mathis have changed airline in the USA or the Caribbean. But of course in the world of Bond, Virgin flies everywhere.

Virgin Atlantic has a very brief encounter with Bond in Skyfall which only includes the presence of some Virgin Atlantic signs at Shanghai Airport. It is probably meant to look like check-in counters but upon closer inspection it's just signs with the logotype. They are only visible for a second in the background to the left of the 'arrivals exit'. Bond is posing as a chauffeur in order to blend in with the crowd when Patrice arrives. The reason why they didn't use real check-in counters is due to the fact that the airport scene was filmed at the Royal Ascot Racecourse in Berkshire that doubled for Shanghai airport.
Patrice is arriving in Shanghai on EWA flight 226. This can refer to 'EVA air', an airline based in Taiwan and the second largest Taiwanese airline. It would make sense since the action is taking place close to Taiwan.  But since the 'EVA air' flight number should have been EVA not EWA, it is more likely that the flight number has no relevance.

A 747 from EVA air, a likely choice when flying to Shanghai
An airline that actually used the abbreviation EWA was the Australian airline 'East West Airlines'. This was a domestic airline that ceased operations in the early 1990's. The fact that no airline uses this abbreviation today can be the reason why they choose to have it in the film.

Virgin Atlantic did a Bond style commercial in 2011, well worth watching:

and another one celebrating their 25th anniversary. Both are excellent and funny commercials:


  1. The Upper Class cabin on Virgin Atlantic is mainly on the lower deck on board 747 aircraft, with some suites also on the upper deck on the ones that fly from London Heathrow. The bar is always located on the lower deck. Also it's neve shown in QoS which aircraft they are flying, so this could be an Airbus.

    This particular scene was actually not filmed on board an aircraft, but at Virgin Atlantic's training facility near Gatwick airport. This facility features a full-scale, fully functioning Upper Class cabin where crew are trained, Which is what you see in the film.

  2. You are correct! Given the size of the cabin it is more likely an airbus, rather than the front of the 747. I will change the article when I have found the plane with a matching interior!
    And of course the scene is not filmed in-flight, but I thought it so obvious that I didn't need to emphasize this.
    Thanks for the remark!