Virgin Atlantic has marked 20 years of flying to South Africa with an onboard party on its flight from Johannesburg to London attended by Sit Richard Branson. The carrier began flying to and from South Africa in October 1996 with an Airbus A340, and now operates a daily flight to London Heathrow with a B787-900.

The airline says that since 1996 Virgin Atlantic has served over 6.3 million glasses of bubbly to over 2.5 million passengers and has operated over 14,400 flights spanning 191,063,520 kms.

Until last year the airline flew to both Johannesburg and Cape Town (flights commenced in 1999), but stopped the Cape Town flights in April 2015.

Sir Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin Atlantic, said: “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.

Virgin Atlantic has a network of over 30 destinations and recently announced a $4.4 billion order for 12 A350-1000 aircraft. It is part of the airline’s commitment to a fleet modernisation program which will see 50 percent of Virgin Atlantic’s aircraft replaced in a six year period.