Looks like I'm right again, you two!
From today's Gulf News:
The Gulf News
Tuesday, Oct 9, 2001
High-flying British tycoon and owner of Virgin airline, Sir Richard Branson, yesterday said he did not want to buy bealeagured Sabena, but instead wanted to acquire all the routes the Belgian airline had to pull out of.
"We don't want to buy Sabena, but we're trying to step into all the routes Sabena has pulled out of because they've gone bankrupt," Sir Richard told Gulf News. He was here to open the first Virgin Megastore in the Gulf - at Dubai's Deira City Centre.
He denied that he wanted any of the failed Belgian airline's aircraft or personnel, either. "We have no interest in taking any of their staff or other assets at this time, we have sufficient infrastructure in-house."
Sir Richard said he was working with the Belgian Government. "We are in discussion with them. We'll know in two weeks what happens then".
American Airlines and Sir Richard were on Sunday named as two possible saviours of the Belgian airline now flying on the edge of collapse - affected as other airlines are by the steep fall in travelling public after the attacks on U.S.
Commenting on the affect on travel trade, Sir Richard said the worst-hit were trans-Atlantic carriers where travel may have dropped by up to 30 per cent - and could take longer than the 15-18 months it took for the travelling public to come back after the Gulf War.
Though against a state bail-out, Sir Richard was an even stronger opponent of a distorted playing field - created by the $18 billion in aid provided to U.S. airlines by the American Government.
Stressing that Virgin has not asked for state aid, Sir Richard thought that to maintain a level playing field, such aid could be given to trans-Atlantic carriers despite European Union Transport Commissioner, Loyola de Palacio, on Sunday ruling out such bail-outs.
"In most circumstances, governments should not be involved in supporting private airlines or companies. Private capital should be able to stand on its own feet".
"However, some governments are putting a lot of money into their airlines - American Airlines, United Airlines, Continental .... - they've been given $18 billion by America.
"Our load factors are down by as much as them (U.S. airlines). So there should be a balancing of books of carriers flying across the Atlantic.
"It is up to the government to decide. We haven't asked, but the (UK) government told us they'd make sure British trans-Atlantic carriers would not suffer any more than U.S. carriers," Sir Richard said.
He, however, was against providing state aid to short haul airlines.