Richard Branson's airline opens Vancouver-London route

British billionaire Sir Richard Branson touches down in B.C.'s Lower Mainland Thursday to launch a new airline service between Vancouver and London.

Round-trip 'Upper Class' Virgin Atlantic service to London set at $5,500

Virgin Atlantic's first landing in Vancouver could mark new savings for passengers 2:12

British billionaire Sir Richard Branson is touching down in B.C.’s Lower Mainland Thursday to launch a new airline service between Vancouver and London.

Although announced last year, the Vancouver route had not become established prior to the arrival of the flamboyant businessman.

Travel agent Brad Davies said he is looking forward to offering the new travel option.

"I know for myself and my colleagues and competitors, we welcome Virgin with open arms. It's a world-class carrier and it certainly good there is competition," Davies said.

Although Virgin does offer some economy fares comparable to other airlines, it’s best known for its higher-end service.

Round-trip fares for flights to or from London in what Virgin calls its "Upper Class" section will start at more than $5,500.

For that, a traveller gets a seat that turns into a bed at the push of a button, complimentary limousine service to and from the airport and meals from an haute-cuisine menu, among other amenities.

Branson is famous for his publicity stunts and his adventurous projects, including failed attempts to circle the globe in a balloon and cross the Atlantic Ocean in a motorboat.

When Branson opened the Virgin record store in Vancouver in the 1990s, he rappelled down the side of the downtown building.

On Thursday, he’s sticking with a more conventional means of travel — aboard one of his airline’s fleet of 40 passenger jets.

Cost for a return flight Vancouver- London including fees and taxes (June 21 - 28, 2012) (CBC)

With files from the CBC's Robert Zimmerman