MIAMI — Virgin Atlantic President Richard Branson said that after British Airways, American Airlines and Iberia received antitrust immunity for transatlantic routes, his airline has benefitted from corporate concern about the power of the allied carriers.
In an interview with Travel Weekly, Branson said, "Initially, we were very worried about immunity for BA-AA and the fact that they would be able to collude on prices and work together. What we've actually found is that the big corporations don't like it either. They don't want them to become dominant, and we're finding that [they’re giving] 50% of their business to us, and 50% to the BA-AA conglomerate. So we seem to be doing OK with it."
Chris Rossi, Virgin Atlantic’s senior vice president for North America, added that when BA and AA began coordinating routes last October, Virgin Atlantic essentially moved from the number three player on the London-New York route to the number two, leaving Virgin as a hedge against the combined power of BA-AA.
Virgin Atlantic CEO Steve Ridgway said, "We fought the BA-AA alliance very hard. We thought it was wrong in terms of size and scope, and we still believe that. But equally, I think the market’s a bit frightened by it, too, so corporations need to protect themselves and make sure they have a choice."
During a press conference to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Virgin Atlantic's service between London and Miami, Branson also said that the airline had been approached by "one or two" of the three airline alliances to join them, and that they were weighing the benefits.
As to which of the alliances had approached them, Ridgway later joked during an interview, "I think it might be difficult to get into Oneworld," the alliance to which American and British Airways belong.
Regarding alliance membership, Ridgway was noncommittal.
"It’s early days," he said. "I don’t know. We’re proud of what we’ve achieved. If there are benefits to be had for us and for the alliance, it may happen."