Virgin Atlantic has marked the 20th anniversary of services between the UK and South Africa in the usual Virgin style – by holding an in-flight party.

Flanked by cabin crew members Francesca Gill and Andrea Burton, the airline’s founder Sir Richard Branson arrived with much fun and fanfare to ‘Birthday Girl’ – the first 787 Dreamliner introduced to the Virgin Atlantic network – in a union jack branded MINI, waving at surprised passengers as they boarded the flight to London. Once on-board, Branson served drinks to all customers and then led the entire plane with some traditional birthday party games from ‘pass-the-parcel’ to lucky draws, all at 38,000ft. Virgin Atlantic began flying to and from South Africa in October 1996 with an Airbus A340, and now operates a daily flight to London Heathrow on a state of the art Boeing 787-900.

“Time really does fly when you’re having fun!” Branson observed. “Twenty years ago we took a leap of faith by operating our first flight into Africa – we didn’t know if people would choose to fly with us but we believed that offering competitive fares between Johannesburg and London was essential. South Africa welcomed us with open arms, and the route quickly became one of the most popular on our network.

“South Africa has always held a place in my heart and I’m so pleased that millions of our customers have explored this beautiful country with Virgin Atlantic, and we look forward to welcoming millions more over the next twenty years.”