Posts Tagged ‘Virgin Atlantic’

Virgin Galactic space flights in two years

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011

Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic project is due to start making commercial flights to the edge of space within the next two years. The programme’s chief pilot, David Mackay of Salisbury, is due to be the man at the controls when the first ever mission takes off. He has described how passengers will be taken to 50,000 feet above the surface of the earth by a mothership before SpaceShipTwo will fire its rockets and transport them beyond the planet’s atmosphere.

It will take around a minute to accelerate the ship to some 2,500 mph, during which customers will experience nearly 4gs. Mr Mackay explained that it will certainly push people into the back of their seats.

At an altitude of around 360,000 feet passengers will be told they can unbuckle their seatbelts and experience weightlessness while looking at a unique view of the earth. The total time of the trip will be around three-and-a-half hours and will cost a cool £125,000. Virgin said that it had already sold 400 tickets for the journey.

Mr Mackay explained that he has wanted to be an astronaut ever since he was a boy watching the Apollo moon landings. He said he joined the RAF after learning that pilots were usually chosen after they had become test pilots.

He was chosen as one of four test pilots for the Virgin Galactic programme while flying as a captain for Virgin Atlantic. He has been based at the Virgin Spaceport in the Mojave Desert in California test flying WhiteKnightTwo, SpaceShipTwo’s mothership.

Malaysia Airlines bans tots from first class

Friday, July 1st, 2011

Malaysia Airlines has decided to risk the anger of wealthy parents by announcing that they will no longer be able to bring their babies into the first-class cabin. The carrier is thought to be the first ever to go ahead with the controversial move. Although they are still to proceed with the threat, both Virgin Atlantic and British Airways recently said that they too were looking into banning tots from premium class.

According to Malaysia Airways’ boss, Tengku Azmil, the decision to confine younger children to economy and business seats was made after the airline received complaints from those who had paid for first-class seats and had been disturbed by crying children. The chief executive explained on Twitter that he had decided to impose the ban because first-class passengers were having their sleep disrupted.

The ban is already in place on the carrier’s fleet of Boeing 747s and the airline has said that there will be no bassinets available in first-class on any of its Airbus A380 superjumbos. The move is likely to upset families affluent enough to pay for their children to sit in the front of a plane, but will be welcomed by business travellers trying to sleep.

The ban will affect those flying between Kuala Lumpur, where the airline is based, and London, Sydney and Amsterdam. Malaysia intends to replace its 747 fleet with the newer A380s on its busiest routes.

Bassinets for tots will still be available for those travelling in business class or economy class.

British Airways price fixing fine due

Monday, June 6th, 2011

British Airways has said it is continuing to examine a civil legal case which originally resulted in the carrier agreeing to pay a fine for price fixing to the Office of Fair Trading. It was originally agreed that BA would pay £121.5 million for its part in illegal price fixing with rival airline Virgin Atlantic.

The sum is the largest ever imposed by the watchdog and was seen as a major triumph back in August 2007. However, although BA has paid in full a fine issued for the same price fixing activity to the US Department of Justice for £183 million, it is still to pay the OFT imposed penalty.

The watchdog has set a payment deadline for the end of this year. A statement of objections will either see BA come up with the cash or officially challenge the fine. British Airways has said little, other than it continues to look at evidence. A criminal case brought against a group of airline executives by the OFT collapsed last year prompting BA to announce that it would be using the evidence from the trial to reassess its civil settlement obligations.

OFT boss, John Fingleton, said when asked about the possibility of BA withholding payment that he was not looking for a fight with the flag carrier. He added that the criminal case had no bearing on the civil action brought against the airline over price fixing.

The OFT said it had not changed its stance on the matter and had not revised the figure the airline was being asked to pay.

Virgin Atlantic pilots to vote over strike

Tuesday, May 17th, 2011

Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Atlantic could be facing its first industrial dispute since it was set up 27 years ago as its pilots are balloted on strike action. The British Airline Pilots Association claims that a pay deal being offered to its members by the company is inadequate.

According to Jim McAuslan, BALPA’s general secretary, Virgin’s pilots agreed to a freeze in the amount they were being paid as the airline struggled with the effects of the economic downturn. The agreement was made on condition that when things improved financially, so would levels of pay.

McAuslan said that Virgin had offered to raise wages by four percent in 2011 with further three percent rises next year and the year after. He points out that inflation is currently around the five per cent mark and looks like remaining high for some time. According to BALPA, if the pilots accept the deal, they are excepting a series of pay cuts.

Virgin Atlantic, which is owned by the Virgin Group and by Singapore Airlines, said it was aware of the upcoming ballot adding that it had offered pilots what it felt was a fair deal. The airline went on to say that there was still time to return to the negotiating table.

As Virgin contends with the spectre of industrial action, it looks as if British Airways has finally put to rest 18 months of fighting with members of its cabin crew. Last week they voted in favour of accepting the latest peace deal from the flag carrier.

Virgin Atlantic targeted by Delta and Air France

Monday, February 21st, 2011

Airline giants Air France-KLM and Delta have expressed an interest in taking over Sir Richard Branson’s 51 per cent share of Virgin Atlantic. The airline has appointed Deutsche Bank to look at the various options available. According to many analysts, Sir Richard will have to be prepared to let go of his controlling stake if he wishes to attract serious offers.

Singapore Airlines holds the other 49 per cent which it acquired in 1999 for £600 million. The carrier has made no secret that if the right offer came along it would be prepared to sell. Singapore would prefer to concentrate its efforts in growing in the Asian market, currently the fastest growing airline market in the world.

Sir Richard has been conducting an operational review ever since British Airways merged with Iberia to form International Airlines Group. The airline has also entered in to a deal across the Atlantic with American Airlines, a move which Sir Richard has never been impressed by.

Airline mergers and tie-ups are a way for carriers to combat economic issues. By signing a codeshare deal an airline has access to a wider market without have to invest in growing its fleet. The advantage for passengers is the increased number of destinations and connections.

Virgin Atlantic has never joined with an airline alliance. If something does happen with Air France and Delta there is likely to be some pressure for Virgin to join SkyTeam, of which they are both members. Abu Dhabi based Etihad has also expressed an interest in Sir Richards Virgin stake.

Virgin Atlantic stake may be sold by Singapore Airlines

Wednesday, January 5th, 2011

Airline analysts are watching Singapore Airlines closely to see how its new chief executive officer will deal with the carrier’s underperforming stake in Virgin Atlantic. Goh Choon Phong took over the top job from Chew Choon Seng on 1 January. His predecessor had already expressed an interest in divesting the airlines shares in Virgin.

Since 2000, when SIA acquired its 49 per cent stake, the shape of the airline industry across Asia has changed dramatically. Fierce competition is now coming from budget carriers like Jetstar and AirAsia. SIA’s market share of the extremely lucrative business market is also under renewed attack from airlines such as Korean and Cathay Pacific.

A further challenge is being offered up in the Middle East where airlines including Emirates, Etihad and Qatar are rapidly building their fleets on routes via their hubs to Asia and Europe. It is therefore believed that SIA will want to give up any plans for global expansion and concentrate its efforts on defending itself against the increasing pressures of the Asian market.

Virgin Atlantic has announced that it has been approached by various international carriers about a possible tie-up. The airline is 51 per cent owned by Sir Richard Branson, and unless he gives up his control, and SIA sells its share, it is unlikely that any other carrier is going to be willing to enter into an alliance.

Deutsche Bank has been put in charge of looking at the options available and, according to Virgin, Singapore Airlines has been supportive of the move.

Virgin Atlantic reveals truth about romantic getaways

Friday, October 8th, 2010

Having to share a toilet with a new partner is a big issue for nearly half those who responded to a recent survey conducted by Virgin Atlantic. The relationship poll reveals that taking a trip away with a loved one too early on in a relationship may spell trouble. British travellers also admitted having hang ups with their bodies with 17 per cent saying they were nervous about getting their clothes off on the beach.

Getting ill was a concern for 34 per cent of respondents and 15 per cent said either they or their partner decided to throw the towel in before the holiday was over and went home alone. After getting back from a trip abroad more than half said they needed to take some time away from their partner.

Well over half of those polled said they felt too many couples decide to take a holiday with each other too early on in their relationship, and 35 per cent admitted they wished they had taken the holiday without their partner.

Virgin Atlantic’s product and service director, Dee Cooper, said: “We have lots of couples who take their first flight together on us to our great cities or more exotic destinations.  Of course they are excited but they may also be a little nervous jetting off to a faraway country with somebody new, so we do our best to help them relax and enjoy their trip.

 ”A complimentary drink always helps our customers settle.  But if the conversation dries up we have over 300 hours of interactive in flight entertainment to enjoy whilst on board.  We’ve even recently introduced Love Heart Sweets on board to try and get those couples in the mood for nostalgia and romance.”

Prime Minister dumps BA in favor of Virgin Atlantic

Tuesday, August 18th, 2009

Gordon Brown and his delegation to the G20 summit in the US will forego British Airways in favor of Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Atlantic. The move is expected to save taxpayers around 30% on the airfare.

British Airways has had their share of troubles this year with falling profits, a major labor dispute, and swine flu cancellations. The struggling airline recently approached its employees about the idea of working for free for a while. This move by Downing Street to a Virgin is considered by many to be a public relations debacle for BA.

Up until now, BA has been the airline of choice by every Prime Minister since Margaret Thatcher. This will break its 30 year run as the top British airline. Naturally, officials at Virgin are delighted with their coup. They are expecting this trip to be just the first of many.

According to Downing Street, “Decisions relating to the Prime Minister’s travel, including the choice of aeroplane for international visits, are taken to deliver maximum value for money for the taxpayer as well as ensuring the most efficient and effective use of the Prime Minister’s time.”

The Prime Minister has praised Virgin Atlantic on several past occasions and Sir Richard has been courting his business for quite some time.

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BA and Virgin ban swine flu victims

Monday, July 20th, 2009

Both British Airways and Virgin Atlantic instituted new policies today, banning swine flu victims from boarding flights. Both airlines have begun to train flight attendants, as well as check-in staff on new procedures on dealing with passengers suspected of having the disease.

“The symptoms for H1N1 can be similar to other illnesses. If we have concerns about a customer, or a customer is concerned, then we have a 24-hour medical service we can call to give advice to staff,” commented a BA spokesperson.

At the same time, the Department of Health is warning holidaymakers who get the sickness while abroad to wait until symptoms have passed before traveling home.

According to British Airways, only a very few passengers have been affected so far by the new policy. Those suspected of have swine flu will have to get a fit-to-fly certificate from a doctor in order to be able to board a plane.

At the height of the tourist season the new policies will apply to thousands of travelers, although it’s not expected to cause any major disruption in schedules. Travelers are advised to get travel insurance which covers flight cancellation.

More than fifty British schoolchildren were recently quarantined in China as a result of an out break of swine flu during a cultural exchange trip.

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Branson criticizes tax plan

Thursday, July 16th, 2009

Sir Richard Branson, president of Virgin Atlantic says that the British Government’s aviation tax plan is out of control.

“Air Passenger Duty is one of the most unjust taxes out there. The UK Government has been quietly increasing APD by huge amounts and claiming it is an environmental tax. Yet, there’s not a shred of evidence to suggest the £2 billion plus currently raised is going towards environmental or sustainable projects,” complained Mr Branson.

Branson predicts that the proposed increase in the passenger tax will have a devastating effect on travelers as well as developing countries in Africa and the Caribbean. The proposed passenger tax increase would raise the rates by over 100% on many routes.

If the new plan takes effect, passengers would be taxed based upon the distance traveled with longer flights being taxed more. For a trip to Australia for example, this translates into a rise from £80 to £170.

In a show of opposition to the tax, Virgin Atlantic has begun printing a message on their e-tickets which criticizes the government and urges passengers to voice their displeasure with the plan.

The plan to raise passenger taxes comes at the same time as a proposed increase in passport fees and has caused criticism throughout the travel industry.

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