I'm hopelessly cynical when it comes to Valentine's Day, even though I celebrate it with my husband every year. If you love the holiday, I totally understand — I usually use it as an excuse to get flowers and a nice dinner — but when it comes to grand, romantic gestures, I'm not a fan. Virgin Atlantic may change that for me: their grandiose Valentine's Day stunt melted my heart. A Virgin Atlantic test flight took a heart-shaped path in the sky for Valentine's Day, and it's ridiculously sweet. According to Business Insider, the flight diversion happened over Cornwall, England Wednesday afternoon (which is Wednesday morning in U.S. time zones).
If you're anything like me, you hate flight delays, so it's important to remember that this was a test flight and no actual passengers were affected. Thanks to data from Flightradar24, a website that tracks live flights around the world, we can see the plane's finished work after it forms the heart over the Atlantic Ocean. According to a press release from Virgin Atlantic provided to Bustle, the airline had to get the stunt approved by NATS, the UK's top provider of air traffic control services. "The flight was operated by an Airbus A330 called ‘HonkyTonk Woman’, and departed London Gatwick at 11am GMT. Aviation lovers were able to follow its progress by searching the Flightradar24 app for flight VS850P," the release says.
JJ Burrows, director of aircraft operations for Virgin Atlantic, is the pilot responsible for the maneuver. “We had a training flight planned for February 14, and when we realized it was Valentine’s Day we decided to have a little fun," he said in the release. "Our special heart shaped flight took off from London Gatwick, travelling across the south of England and over the Cornish coast to form a heart shape at around 30,000ft.” The airline says the diversion proved "love really is in the air," which is pretty corny but also kind of adorable.
Of course, not everyone approved of the feat. Several people expressed concern about carbon emissions and the fuel the flight used during the stunt. Twitter user Tontkowalski tweeted, "Great for climate change." Virgin responded and said, "This was a required training flight that happened to take place on Valentines Day, so we altered the flight path slightly to make a heart shape." Incredibly, the Twitter user responded and thanked the airline for the explanation. No one ever admits they're wrong on the Internet, so maybe love really is in the air today.
You can watch a sped-up video of the flight path thanks to NATS. Even if you decry over-the-top gestures, it's hard to not crack a smile after watching this video. I claim to hate elaborate stunts, but now I kind of want my husband to get a pilot's license to repeat the flight path. If I were the pilot's spouse, I would definitely be pretending it was all done for me. The bar has been raised thanks to Virgin Atlantic, and I'm not complaining.
Valentine's Day can feel unnecessarily cheesy, but this flight is a reminder that sometimes, cheesy isn't a bad thing. The whole thing put a smile on my face, and I'm not the only one. Richard Branson, the billionaire entrepreneur who founded Virgin, has this to say.
Whether you're celebrating with someone special or just waiting for half-priced chocolate to hit store shelves tomorrow, we can all appreciate a well-executed public relations stunt. It's not often that we get something that's both entertaining and genuinely original, and I'm appreciative, especially because this has me rethinking my cynicism toward love.