Virgin Atlantic has touched down in
Fresh in from a screening of the new Harry Potter film at Universal Studios in the States, Virgin Atlantic president Richard Branson came along for the inaugural celebrations (for the Harry Potter fans out there, the film is apparently “tremendous” and “beautifully done”).
Airline Business caught up with him in Virgin’s Club House lounge for a pre-departure video interview, which will be online soon. To give you a sneak preview, Branson said Virgin might be forced to partner up with another airline to keep pace with the consolidation trend.
“If the playing field is so tipped against us that it is almost impossible to be an independent airline, we may come to a position where we have to consolidate. But this is not something we want,” said Branson. He added that it is too early to say who Virgin might team up with.
Later on, he gave a casual media briefing around the Upper Class bar on board. Here’s a quick sample of what was discussed.
THE RECOVERY: “Personally I’m an optimistic on recovery. I don’t think we’re going to have a second dip.”
SIA’S VIRGIN ATLANTIC STAKE: “I don’t think they’re looking to sell.”
VIRGIN’S AIRASIA X INVESTMENT: “Air Asia X is going very well. This is a financial, rather than strategic investment, so whether or not we keep it in the long term, we will have to see.”
LONG HAUL, LOW-COST: “I don’t think a pure low-cost airline out of the
makes sense. I’m not sure it would work.” UK
THE BA STRIKE: “I wouldn’t want to be involved in an airline which is tearing itself apart. Your relationship with your people is everything. A lot of BA passengers who have never flown with us are trying Virgin Atlantic. They have done themselves long-term, as well as short-term damage.”
VIRGIN’S NEXT AIRLINE MOVE: “Space. This may lead to intercontinental travel in a fraction of the time and fuel would be a fraction of the cost compared with today’s intercontinental flights.”
VOLCANIC ASH: “We sent our aircraft up, BA sent their aircraft up and we didn’t find ash. We didn’t expect to find any 1,000 miles away from the volcano. We want the CAA and the Met Office to do proper monitoring of the ash cloud, not just holding a finger in sky as they have done until now.”
THE PRICE FIXING CASE: “[Virgin Atlantic CEO] Steve Ridgway and all the people working with Virgin have my complete confidence”
AND FINALLY…WHAT’S KEEPING HIM UP AT NIGHT: “I think if you stayed awake with the problems of the airline industry you’d never get good night’s sleep. You know that something is going to hit you each year, but you never know what it’s going to be…SARS, 9/11, bird flu, the recession. We’re just trying to battle our way through.”