Branson accuses politicians of being ‘cowardly’ over Heathrow

Branson accuses politicians of being 'cowardly' over HeathrowSir Richard Branson has accused “cowardly” politicians of preventing Virgin Atlantic starting “all sorts of routes” from Heathrow.

Speaking at the launch of Virgin Atlantic’s new Boeing 787 service to the US, Branson hit out at the constraints on the airline at Heathrow.

He said: “If we want to do a new route [at Heathrow] we have to close another because there are no slots. That is unlike anywhere else in the world.

“We are completely slot constrained in Britain. If a new runway were built [at Heathrow] there would be all sorts of routes Virgin Atlantic would want to open.”

The carrier operates from Heathrow and Gatwick, but Branson made clear he favours Heathrow for expansion.

Asked if he thought the Davies Commission on airport capacity should recommend a new runway at Heathrow or Gatwick, Branson said: “Heathrow is where people want to fly from. Heathrow is where all businesses are set up.”

He said: “Britain has held itself back by not having a new runway.”

Branson suggested there was no guarantee the next government would follow any recommendations of the Davies Commission to expand capacity.

He said: “I’m afraid politicians are all a bit cowardly when it comes to taking tough decisions.”

Sourced from Travel Weekly


Virgin to launch cruise operation?

BransonSky News has reported that the money would be used to buy ships in a bid to rival some of the cruise industry’s biggest names including Carnival and Royal Caribbean.

The virgin Group has already appointed the US-based corporate advisory firm Allen & Co to oversea the development of the venture which is expected to be named Virgin Cruises.

While the project is still in its early days the company has already had detailed talks with the banks about raising the cash to buy the first vessels.

A further $700 of equity would be raised by selling stakes in Virgin Cruises to outside investors.

Virgin boss Sir Richard Branson is believed to have been eyeing the cruise market for some time.

The headquarters for Virgin Cruises would be based in the US to take advantage of the country’s thriving cruise market.

Sky News added Virgin has also been in discussion with Allen & Co regarding setting up a new chain o four-star city-centre hotels.

The first will open in Chicago this autumn with others to follow in US cities served by the Virgin flights.

Sourced by TTG Digital

Branson hits out at ‘badly managed’ Qantas

Branson hits out at 'badly managed' QantasBy Phil Davies

Qantas has come under fire from Sir Richard Branson who claims that if it was “better managed” then it would not be in a “financial mess”.The Virgin Australia boss hit out following Qantas’ backing of a plan suggested by Australian treasurer Joe Hockey that foreign ownership rules covering the country’s flag carrier should be relaxed.

Current laws restrict foreign stakes in Qantas to 49%, with overseas airlines allowed to own just 35%.

Qantas claims this puts it at a disadvantage to rivals such as Virgin Australia, which is not subject to the regulations.

But Sir Richard, writing on the website, claims that the Australian market is more than competitive already.

He wrote: “We began competing with Qantas in 2000 with just two planes and one route.

“Over the last 13 years we have grown the airline to more than 140 planes but flying in Australia has sometimes been akin to having a bleeding competition with a blood bank.

“Qantas was the giant in the market with a myriad of foreign alliances and advantages determined to bleed Virgin Blue, now Virgin Australia, dry.

“However thanks to the superior quality of Virgin Australia’s management and its staff, it has not only survived but has now managed to create a much more level playing field which is offering the customer more choice and better value.”

Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce wants “urgent, immediate action” from regulators to ensure his airline grows, despite already sealing a tie-up with Emirates and dominating the Australian market, the Daily Telegraph reported.

But Sir Richard said any such move from the authorities would be “grossly unfair”.

“Today Qantas’s alliances are still larger than Virgin’s, but our improved position is having a big impact on Qantas, who are now complaining about the intensified competition.

“It seems strange to me that a Liberal government would even consider tilting the playing field once again in Qantas’s favour.

“It would be grossly unfair, undermine the great work of Virgin Australia’s management team and staff and bewilder investors in Australia and worldwide.

“If Qantas was better managed and offered the public a decent service it would not be in the financial mess it is currently claiming it is in.

“Government should be there to encourage competition, not to prop up the weak when the going gets tough.”

Sourced from Travel Weekly

Airline complaint letter goes viral

BransonBy Amelia Romanos

A UK man’s letter to Caribbean airline Liat has gone viral after Sir Richard Branson held it up as an example of “how to write a complaint letter”.

The open letter, written by Lonodner Arthur Hicks, appeared in the weekly British Virgin Islands newspaper, the BVI Beacon, earlier this year, and was noted by Branson in his blog over the weekend.

“Having once received what many regard as the world’s best complaint letter, I was tickled to see another brilliant note to a different airline,” Branson wrote.

Among the points noted with more than a hint of sarcasm in Hicks’ letter were several plane changes, six airport stops with security scanners and pat-downs at each airport, a missed ferry departure, and a lost bag.

Liat has a partnership with Branson’s Virgin Atlantic.

The letter:

Dear LIAT,

May I say how considerate it is of you to enable your passengers such an in-depth and thorough tour of the Caribbean.

Most other airlines I have travelled on would simply wish to take me from point A to B in rather a hurry. I was intrigued that we were allowed to stop at not a lowly one or two but a magnificent six airports yesterday. And who wants to fly on the same airplane the entire time? We got to change and refuel every step of the way!

I particularly enjoyed sampling the security scanners at each and every airport. I find it preposterous that people imagine them all to be the same. And as for being patted down by a variety of islanders, well, I feel as if I’ve been hugged by most of the Caribbean already.

I also found it unique that this was all done on “island time,” because I do like to have time to absorb the atmosphere of the various departure lounges. As for our arrival, well, who wants to have to take a ferry at the end of all that flying anyway? I’m glad the boat was long gone by the time we arrived into Tortola last night — and that all those noisy bars and restaurants were closed.

So thank you, LIAT. I now truly understand why you are “The Caribbean Airline.”

P.S. Keep the bag. I never liked it anyway.

Sourced by TTG Digital

Virgin tie-up with Air France-KLM ‘makes sense’ – Branson

Sir Richard Branson said that a possible tie-up with Air France-KLM to boost its services in Europe and the Middle East “makes sense”.

“We’ll see whether something comes from it,” said Virgin Atlantic’s founder and chairman when asked about the possibility of a tie-up with Air France-KLM during the launch of Virgin’s new domestic service Little Red earlier this week.

“But the most important thing right now is for us to get the Delta deal through,” added Branson. “That’s going through its due process and once that’s happened I wouldn’t be at all surprised if we had some discussions.”

Virgin Atlantic and Delta have this week filed an application for antitrust immunity with the US Department of Transportation, ahead of their proposed joint venture on flights between the US and the UK.

Craig Kreeger, the airline’s new chief executive – who took the helm in February after 27 years at American Airlines – said: “From the UK perspective, it offers a whole new set of destinations and frequencies to places we don’t fly to or fly to infrequently, by connecting our network to Delta’s network in the US.

“Delta is, as of now, the largest airline in the US – in the Americas – and we’re suddenly going to have connections for our customers where they will be able to earn frequent flyer miles in our programme, their corporate relationship with us will apply on to the network that Delta flies, and they’ll have lounge access and enhanced connectivity as we work together with Delta to make that as seamless as possible.

“But equally important for Virgin Atlantic is that from the US perspective we suddenly now have access to Delta’s frequent flyers, Delta’s corporate relationships, Delta’s travel agency relationships, and Delta is really excited about being able to offer our service to their customers, because they think that’s going to take them off other alliances and other airlines and move them on to us and Delta.”

He added: “Delta has been very clear in all of my conversations with them that what they are really excited about is our service to Heathrow, but that it remains Virgin Atlantic service to Heathrow, that it is a product they believe they will be able to sell effectively to their customers.

“For us, that’s a whole new source of potential customers and will also diversify us away from a large reliance on the British economy, which has not been a great thing to be relying upon in the past couple of years.”

Kreeger confirmed that the airline would consider a further joint venture with Air France-KLM – like Delta, a member of the Skyteam alliance.

“What I would say is that our first priority is executing the Delta relationship as excellently [as we can], and at the right time we will evaluate whether Air France-KLM – or, in fact, a broader relationship with Skyteam – makes sense. We haven’t made those decisions yet, nor have we begun the evaluation of them.”

Sourced by bbt

Branson pins profit hopes on Dreamliner

Branson pins profit hopes on Dreamliner

By Robin Searle

Delivery of Boeing’s troubled 787 aircraft will be crucial to Virgin Atlantic’s aim of returning to profitability by 2015, according to the airline’s president Sir Richard Branson.

Speaking to Travel Weekly during the inaugural celebrations for Virgin’s domestic offshoot Little Red in Edinburgh, Branson said he felt the target was viable and dependent on the integration of more cost-effective aircraft.

“As long as the 787s don’t get delayed again, there is every chance that it can be possible,” he said.

Virgin is due to take delivery of Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner in late summer 2014 as part of a wider fleet overhaul. It also hopes to boost revenue with the launch of Little Red services from Heathrow to Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Manchester and through an expected tie-up with Delta Air Lines in the US.

Virgin’s new chief executive Craig Kreeger believes the airline can transform a loss, expected to be about £130 million for the financial year to February 2013, into a profit within two years.

“(To return to profit) our strategy includes trying to find new sources of revenue, and that includes creating connectivity through Little Red and through the relationship with Delta,” said Kreeger.

“We have made some tough decisions, including a pay freeze for staff, but we have to ensure that no decisions are made at the expense of the customer or our people.”

The two airlines filed an application with the US Department of Transportation seeking antitrust immunity for their joint venture this week.

Speaking about the appointment of former American Airlines executive Kreeger, Branson said: “Craig has a lot of experience in the States, and through the Delta deal the States is going to play a bigger and bigger role in Virgin Atlantic’s future.”

Sourced from Travel Weekly

Virgin’s Little Red will give BA a run for its money, claims boss

Virgin’s Little Red will give BA a run for its money, claims boss

By Robin Searle

Virgin Atlantic’s new short-haul airline Little Red will be able to compete with British Airways despite lower frequencies and the need to transfer between terminals at Heathrow, its new chief executive insists.

Speaking at the launch of Little Red services in Edinburgh, Craig Kreeger said he was confident available flight times “covered the day very well” and new transfers between terminals would ensure the change would not be off-putting for customers.

Little Red services currently fly in to Terminal One, while long-haul services depart from Terminal Three. If a proposed tie-up with Delta is approved as expected, that will mean more flights operating from different terminals, with Delta flying from Terminal Four.

While admitting that Virgin would be talking to Heathrow bosses about relocating Little Red services to Terminal Three to ease the process, Kreeger said he was confident the completely airside bus transfer would not be off-putting for customers.

“I have tried it myself and the whole process took under 20 minutes,” he said.

“I am confident (about competing with British Airways) and I am confident we will be chosen time and again by those that give us a try.”

Virgin Atlantic president Richard Branson said that the airline had “had its hands tied for 30 years” by not having sufficient slots at Heathrow to offer its own connecting flights to regional airports.

But he said the launch of Little Red flights to Manchester, Edinburgh and Aberdeen would bring in new passengers and generate repeat business.

“Due to BMI’s demise a few crumbs came off the table, and we hope to put those crumbs to good use,” he said.

“It will offer some proper competition to BA on those routes and, more importantly, on all the routes which Virgin Atlantic flies.”

Sourced from Travel Weekly