Sir Richard hit back at British Airways boss Willie Walsh after the demise of a Virgin Atlantic UK carrier, and advised his rival to put on a pair of his “strongest trousers”. The billionaire and face of Virgin described Virgin Atlantic as a “better known” and “more respected” global brand than British Airways, which would be around for another 40 years. He jokingly referred to an infamous bet made by Mr Walsh, boss of British Airways’ parent company International Consolidated Airlines Group, when US airline Delta purchased a 49 percent stake in Virgin Atlantic in 2012.
Mr Walsh bet his rival a “knee in the groin” that Virgin Atlantic would disappear within several years and claimed Delta called the shots.
Speaking in Atlanta following the inaugural flight of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner from Heathrow to the US city, Mr Branson said: “It’s quite flattering that Willie Walsh spends so much time talking about his smaller competitor.
“Two and a half years ago, when we signed up with Delta, he said he wanted to lay down a challenge which was a kick in the groin that the brand would not exist five years after signing. We’ve now got just two and a half years to run.
“So all I’d say is that he ought to be testing his strongest trousers he can find to protect his…well you know what he’s called.”
The light comments underlined a long running feud between the rivals, which flared up again in the same month when Virgin announced it would close the Little Red UK flight network next year.
Just before Virgin pulled the plug on Little Red, Mr Walsh declared he was “delighted” the domestic airline had been struggling to fill flights and that his prediction the venture would flop was proved correct.
The ill feeling between Sir Richard and Mr Walsh was also high in 2009, when the Virgin Atlantic founder said the government shouldn’t bailout British Airways, which was struggling at the time.
A Virgin Spokesperson told Express.co.uk last month: “The current global crisis is unprecedented, impacting families, livelihoods and businesses in a severe and unparalleled way – it’s an entirely different set of circumstances to those in 2009.
“The reality is that many airlines around the world, including Virgin Atlantic, now need government support and many have already received it.
“Virgin Atlantic’s support would be in the form of a commercial loan and it would be paid back.
“Virgin Atlantic has a long history of delighting its customers and offering much needed choice and competition that significantly benefits the UK economy.”
This week, Sir Richard has sold over £400million’s worth of shares in Virgin Galactic to save his other businesses, including Virgin Atlantic.
Published at Wed, 13 May 2020 12:29:00 +0000