Virgin Atlantic’s Sir Richard Branson visits Washington – and denounces plans for merger of British Airways and American Airlines

Sir Richard Branson along with flight attendants from the airline

Sir Richard Branson, chairman of the Virgin Group and founder of Virgin Atlantic airlines, along with flight attendants from the airline

SIR RICHARD BRANSON, the chairman of the Virgin Group and the founder of Virgin Atlantic airlines, denounced plans for a British Airways/American Airlines merger during a breakfast speech at the National Press Club on Thursday, May 14.

BRANSON WAS in Washington, D.C. to make his case against the proposed merger between British Airways and American Airlines – the two largest airlines in the world, and said that a merger would stifle competition on transatlantic routes and that “the competition will be squeezed.” The British industrialist started Virgin Atlantic 25 years ago, in June 1984, with one Boeing 747. Today the airline serves 30 destinations from Heathrow and Gatwick airports in London.

BRANSON emphasized that Virgin Atlantic continues to get the best ratings from passengers. “We are listening to the customers, and we have an impeccable safety record.”

“BRITISH AIRWAYS and American Airlines would have the majority of the slots at a hub at Heathrow – Europe’s most important airport. These slots have been given to BA by the British government,” Branson added. He warned against tendencies towards monopolies, and that his airline could be in trouble if the merger would be approved by authorities. He couldn’t guarantee Virgin Atlantic’s survival.
“Imagine if Coke and Pepsi would merge. That would be horrendous. Alliances don’t benefit the travelers, and we have to persuade the regulators. It doesn’t make sense to encourage less competition.”

A MERGER between BA and AA was discussed earlier, in 1996 and 2001, but BA refused then to give up flight slots to fulfill U.S. regulators’ demands.

Sir Richard Branson

Richard Branson, speaking at a breakfast at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., warned against a British Airways and American Airlines merger.

BRANSON SAID that oil prices today are around $60 per barrel, and said oil should be around $25-$30 per barrel. He also mentioned that he invests in trains, through his company Virgin Trains, in the U.K. He stated that he is hoping to work on President Obama’s plan to upgrade the American railroad network. “It is a delightful way of traveling,” he said.

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