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Steve Ridgway CBE was Chief Executive Officer for Virgin Atlantic between 2001-2013 and part of the executive team running the company since 1994. During his time at the airline, he saw Virgin Atlantic grow from two 747s to a fleet of 40 long haul aircraft, flying six million passengers a year all over the world and with a £3 Billion turnover.
Virgin Atlantic is considered by many to be one of the most innovative and formidable airlines, having won top business, consumer and trade awards from around the world. In his 12-year tenure as CEO, Virgin Atlantic has pioneered a range of innovations setting new standards of service, which its competitors have subsequently tried to follow.
Born in Devon, Steve Ridgway grew up on a farm near Salcombe before going to Newton Abbot College and gaining an honorary Economics degree from Oxford Brookes University. He later gained a PGCE in 1976. Steve's early career saw him working as a Sales Manager for Cavenham Foods and for a brief period he was also a teacher.
Steve moved to Miami and began working for power boat builder Ted Toleman. He worked there for two years as Business Development Manager which had Virgin as one of its clients and built the Virgin Atlantic Challenger. From 1981-’85 Steve worked for Cougar Marine, during which time he was the Project Head and Chief Pilot on the two Virgin Atlantic Challengers, designing and developing the boats, which culminated in the successful recapturing the Blue Riband record for the fastest crossing of the North Atlantic. Along with Chay Blyth, Steve then founded Epsilon, Business Development Consultancy in 1989, which led to the creation of the hugely successful British Steel Challenge and The BT Global Challenge Round the World Race in 1992-93 and 1996-97.
Steve Ridgway joined Virgin Atlantic in 1989 and soon-after was appointed Managing Director of Virgin Freeway in 1990, launching the UK's first automated frequent flyer programme. In 1994 he was appointed as a board member taking the role of Executive Director of Customer Services, then in 1998 promoted to Managing Director and finally Chief Executive officer in 2001.
His 23-year career at Virgin Atlantic ended when he resigned in 2013 where he commented "My time with Virgin Atlantic has been nothing short of an adventure. I've seen many great times and a few bad, and have always remained firm that we must offer something different to that of our competitors. Our staff, both on the ground and in the air, deliver a service that others could only hope to copy. I will be leaving the airline as it embarks on a new era of flying – and I am confident that it will continue to soar and enjoy success for many years to come".
Not one to shy from debate; Steve Ridgway is a leading industry voice and has constantly challenged the Government to evaluate its stance on UK aviation and airports. He has fought hard to ensure Virgin Atlantic is the UK's second largest long haul carrier, but more importantly – a brand that people all over the world admire. He successfully steered the airline through major global aviation issues including the tragic events of 9/11 and the volcanic ash cloud. He continues to lead and inspire during the difficult economic conditions facing the UK and will leave a lasting impact with his constant desire to invest and innovate throughout the business.
Steve Ridgway lives in London and Hampshire. He enjoys sailing and fast cars. He was awarded a CBE in the 2006 New Year Honours list.
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