Virgin Blue launched in Australia on Sunday 9th July 2000

When Virgin airlines launched their domestic service in Australia, they invited dozens of media to attend a celebrity mystery flight from Brisbane Airport.

Virgin Blue’s Boeing 737–400’s at Brisbane Airport on Sunday 9th July 2000. Credit: Brenden Wood

The launch was hosted by Richard Branson on the morning of Sunday 9th July 2000. He announced that the airline would be called Virgin Blue and would challenge other domestic airlines — Ansett and Qantas.

Flying guests to a lunch to celebrate Virgin Blue’s launch on Sunday 9th July 2000. Credit: Brenden Wood

Branson told his new employees and media that the Australian slang word used to describe a redhead, ‘blue’, would be used in the name of their airline’s operation in Australia.

Richard Branson launches Virgin Blue in Australia on Sunday 9th July 2000. Credit: Brenden Wood

At the time, I was working for Brisbane radio station B105, and I was asked to join other media for the historic launch flight.

Richard Branson at the Virgin Blue launch event on Sunday 9th July 2000. Credit: Brenden Wood

After Richard Branson sprayed champagne over some of his new employees, we flew out of Brisbane on board a Boeing 737–400, called ‘Blue Belle.’ Once in the air, Branson formerly introduced himself to everyone and told us that the mystery flight would be landing at Maroochydore for lunch at a Sunshine Coast homestead.

Virgin Blue’s launch at Brisbane Airport. Credit: Brenden Wood

The flight to the Sunshine Coast was short, but fun. accepted my invitation to interview guests for our breakfast radio show, the B105 Morning Crew.

Brenden Wood and Richard Branson — Virgin Blue launch day Sunday 9th July 2000. Credit: Brenden Wood

Branson jumped onto the plane’s intercom to announce he was sacking the pilot for a hard landing at . 7NEWS reporter Peter Doherty had a tight news deadline, and he departed our Sunshine Coast ‘party’ early — catching a lift home to Mt Coot-tha in the 9 News helicopter.

During the day, I managed to chat with ironman and international singer — she seemed mildly interested in knowing that I went to high school with her sister Carla.

Natalie Imbruglia and Brenden Wood — Virgin Blue launch day Sunday 9th July 2000. Credit: Brenden Wood

The following day, the interviews that Richard Branson recorded on board his plane were aired on Brisbane radio station B105 — but the interview with the Morning Crew didn’t go as well as I expected — we had some in our new studio.

Trevor Hendy and Natalie Imbruglia — Virgin Blue launch day Sunday 9th July 2000. Credit: Brenden Wood

About 14 months after the launch, Ansett airlines collapsed. Virgin Blue quickly became Australia’s #2 airline. The airline changed its name to 11 years later. In April 2020, as the coronavirus pandemic hit, the company was put into voluntary administration.

Up front with the pilots — Virgin Blue launch day Sunday 9th July 2000
B105’s Brenden Wood at Virgin Blue’s launch at Brisbane Airport. Credit: Brenden Wood

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