Taken from the Herald Sun website http://www.heraldsun.news.com.au
Virgin Atlantic signals landing
By Maria Hawthorne
VIRGIN Atlantic could be flying daily to Australia by Christmas, Virgin boss Sir Richard Branson said today.
Sir Richard said he would appoint a team to work on developing an Australian route and hoped to have the new service up and running by the end of the year.
And he said the inaugural flight could be on the Concorde if he wins his battle with British Airways over control of the ageing supersonic aircraft fleet, which is due to be retired this October.
Sir Richard was speaking after a meeting in London with Australian Tourism Minister Joe Hockey.
"The minister on his trip to England has been twisting our arms trying to get us to fly Virgin Atlantic to Australia as soon as possible," Sir Richard said.
"As a result, we're going to have a team of people working on it. Hopefully, if we can get everything sorted out, maybe by Christmas or early in the New Year we'll see Virgin Atlantic flying either to Sydney, Brisbane or Melbourne, or even two or three of those cities.
"We'll get to work on it."
Sir Richard said the kangaroo route needed some competition to shake up British Airways and Qantas, which he said were operating a duopoly.
"They own shares in each other, you'll find that they have identical fares, and the price of tickets does affect tourism," he said.
"If we can get in there and offer a better-quality product with lower fares, hopefully more people will go to Australia and fly Virgin Blue."
Virgin Blue began flying in 2000 and has between 25 and 30 per cent of the Australian domestic market.
Sir Richard will discuss his plans with John Howard when the Australian Prime Minister visits London later this year.
Mr Hockey said the decision was a huge step forward for the Australian tourism industry.
"There's only two European airlines flying into Australia - Lauda Air and BA
- so the more European airlines that we can get into Australia the better," Mr Hockey said.
Virgin Atlantic, Europe's second largest long-haul airline, has a fleet of 25 planes with another 15 on order.
It carries 4.1 million passengers a year to 22 destinations and is the 25th largest airline in the world.
Singapore Airlines owns 49 per cent of the airline, which was set up 18 years ago.
Sir Richard said Virgin was still working on prising the Concordes away from British Airlines, which has so far refused to sell the jets despite announcing plans to take them out of service.
He said the British-designed planes still had 25 years' flying life left in them and would be a fantastic flagship for Britain.
"We're doing everything we can to embarrass BA
into handing them over to us," he said.
"If we succeed, almost definitely the inaugural flight (to Australia), if nothing else, will be on a Concorde."
I cant wait to see VS
operating to MEL
. It really would be a severe problem for QF
on the Kangaroo route to LHR
, especially if VS
can offer substantially lower fares. What do you think? Australia really needs another European airline represented on our soil.