Sir Richard Branson has challenged British Airways to accept a £1 million bet on the survival of the Virgin Atlantic brand.
This week Willie Walsh, the CEO of BA’s parent company IAG, suggested the Virgin Atlantic brand could disappear, with Singapore Airlines looking to sell its 49 per cent stake in the carrier (see online news December 10).
But Branson has responded in his blog by stating that Walsh’s comments are “wishful thinking and totally misguided”.
“Will BA never learn?” the post continues, “Let’s see how much they believe this. Let them put their money where their mouth is.
“The last time BA had to make a settlement to me for damages (in part for spreading not dissimilar false rumours) I split the money amongst our staff. Rather than suing them on this occasion, I will pay £1 million to their staff if Virgin Atlantic disappears within say five years. If not, BA pays our staff £1 million.
“Virgin Atlantic was my baby 28 years ago when we set up with just one plane. Like all children, they never really stop being your babies and Virgin Atlantic is still much cherished. It has grown into a wonderful airline which has punched above its weight for almost three decades, giving much larger airlines a real run for their money.
“We intend to carry on doing so for many years to come and, contrary to Mr Walsh’s hopes, we have no plans to disappear. But since they are so confident, will BA accept our challenge?”
In response to the challenge, Willie Walsh has been quoted by the BBC as preferring to wager “a knee in the groin”.
“I don’t have £1m, so a knee in the groin, maybe – that would be as painful to him as it might be to me.”
Report by Mark Caswell