Chris Jasper/CHICAGO


Virgin Atlantic Air-ways says it is now inevitable that it will link up with a global alliance. Chairman Richard Branson has revealed the UK carrier has been approached by three major groupings.

Sources at Virgin confirm that the UK carrier has entered a dialogue with at least one of the three. Branson does not rule out joining an alliance in the near future, but says this is not a preferred option.

Speaking during Virgin's inaugural flight from London Heathrow to Chicago, Branson says he still regards global alliances as anti-competitive structures, but that the failure of the regulators to block their formation, and the significant obstacles to airline takeovers by foreign carriers, may combine to force his hand.

"Inevitably we will end up linking up with somebody at some stage in some form or another," he says. "We have stated that we think governments should not be allowing these alliances to form as they are doing because they are anti-competitive, but they don't seem to be listening. The reason for alliances is to cut costs, boost profits and squeeze out competitors."

BM's leaning towards Star may impact on Virgin's relationship with the alliance. Branson admits he had hoped to develop ties with the UK carrier, perhaps leading to a merger, and that he would have been happy to see BM's Sir Michael Bishop become chairman of the new company.

Although the two airlines would have formed a perfect marriage in network terms, Bishop resisted Branson's overtures and it is unlikely the pair could work happily in the same grouping.

Source: Flight International