Will Offer Business Class Flights Connecting London, US
Virgin Group founder Sir
Richard Branson is creating a bit of a stir in the transatlantic
arm of the airline industry, especially among the rookies, with
plans to start business class-only flights in a yet another new air
"In the next 12 to 18 months we will start a business-only
airline," a Virgin spokesman told Reuters on Monday. "We'll serve
New York initially and then other US cities."
Newbies EOS, MAXjet and Silverjet already offer business
class-only flights with competitive fares. They are probably
watching this situation unfold with great interest.
"I think the Virgin concept is very interesting," said Keith
McMullan of London-based consultancy Aviation Economics. "They're
offering their premium product out of Continental Europe for the
first time. I think it's the start of a trend and it's commercially
logical," he said.
And don't think the heavyweight class will take any turf
encroachment lying down. Virgin Atlantic is already planning new
flights to New York from Paris, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Milan and
Zurich, as well as from London.
British Airways makes the bulk of its profits on transatlantic
flights and is said to be seriously investigating the business
The carriers' spring into action coincides with not only the
potential threat of one more new carrier, but with new competition
that will undoubtedly arise when the Open Skies pact between Europe
and the United States goes into effect on March 30, 2008.
As ANN reported, the landmark
"open skies" agreement significantly eases restrictions on
"With this agreement, the honeymoon in Paris, the business trip
to Dublin, and family reunion in Naples will be cheaper, easier,
and within the reach of more Americans than ever before," said US
Transportation Secretary Mary Peters. "Also, better access to
American destinations means European visitors will bring new
business to our local communities."
Apparently getting ready to take advantage of the agreement,
Virgin is planning to acquire up to 15 new planes worth about $700
million at current list prices, the Virgin spokesman said.
"We may use some of the (Boeing) 787s we ordered recently," he
said, but added the airline is in talks with Boeing, Airbus,
Embraer and Bombardier.