The service will operate on a daily basis as of an unspecified date next year, with a Boeing 787-9 making the journey across the Atlantic in just under 12 hours.
In 21st-century fashion, the news was initially trailed on social media via a Twitter post with cryptic messages about a destination "in the Southern Hemisphere" that "has more than 6,000 pizzerias" and is "famous for football", before the full details were revealed.
Guess what? We’re announcing a new destination today! Can you work out where it might be?— Virgin Atlantic (@VirginAtlantic) March 20, 2019
�� New continent for Virgin Atlantic
�� In the Southern Hemisphere
�� Has more than 6,000 pizzerias
⚽ Famous for football
In what may be a surprise to those who have only vaguely followed the airline's growth over the last four decades, this will be Virgin's first foray into South America. It will also mean that the company now serves four continents from its UK base, with Brazil joining the likes of China (Shanghai and Hong Kong), India (Delhi), South Africa (Johannesburg), Mexico (Cancun) and the US (cities including Washington DC, New York, Boston, Los Angeles and San Francisco) on its destinations roster.
"We are very excited to be flying to a brand new continent for the first time," says Juha Jarvinen, the airline's executive vice-president. "Sao Paulo represents an incredible opportunity for our business."
The introduction of the flight will increase direct airlift between London and a city that has long acted as a hub for passengers wanting to travel on further in Brazil and South America. Both British Airways and LATAM Brasil also fly in from Heathrow.
Guarulhos-Governador André Franco Montoro International Airport (to use its rather unwieldy full title) is the busiest airport in South America (it greeted almost 43 million passengers in 2018) - and is the second busiest in Latin America, after Mexico City.
However, while Sao Paulo is not short of numbers in its terminals and on its runways, it remains something of a blind-spot for tourists - not least for holidaymakers from Europe, who tend to view Rio de Janeiro as the obvious candidate for a few days in a Brazilian city before they head on to the Amazon, Iguacu Falls or the beach at Buzios.
Part of the problem, perhaps, is that Sao Paulo can feel almost too big to contemplate. While it is not Brazil's capital (the purpose-built Brasilia enjoys that role - and took the crown from Rio when it was founded in 1960), it is by far its biggest city by population - home to almost 15million souls. Rio, in second place, has less than half that number.
This enormity translates into visit-worthy sites. Its cathedral is a giant neo-gothic wonder fronted by two graceful spires, while the collection at the Museum of Art (MASP; masp.org.br) ranges from Titian to Van Gogh via a host of Brazilian artists, and is considered one of the finest on the continent.
Travellers stopping in the city do not have to forego the beach either - there are lovely strips of sand where the wider state of Sao Paulo reaches down to the Atlantic's edge, 40 miles to the south in Santos and Praia Grande.
The city's allure has not been lost on Virgin Atlantic, which used the launch to describe it as "an exciting new destination for our leisure customers," and adding that "Sao Paulo boasts numerous cultural institutions".
The flight launch has also been welcomed by the Brazilian government, with Marcelo Alvaro Antonio, the Minister of Tourism, describing the new service as "a great achievement for our country".