IAG's chief executive Willie Walsh has suggested the Virgin Atlantic brand may soon disappear.
Reacting to the news that Singapore Airlines is looking to sell its 49 per cent stake in Virgin Atlantic to Delta (for report, click here), Walsh was quick to point out the logic of the deal and what it might mean for the Virgin Atlantic brand.
Speaking on a flight between Heathrow and BA's recently launched route to Seoul (click here for a review of the service), Walsh told the assorted press that he couldn’t see Delta wanting to operate the Virgin brand.
“If they do, what does it say about their brand? And if they don’t, where does it leave the Virgin brand?”
As Walsh went on to say, Delta not only would not be interested in buying the brand, they are unlikely to want Virgin’s fleet either.
“It’s the slots they are buying. And where does that leave the Virgin brand at Heathrow?”
Walsh’s comments come at a difficult time for Virgin. Since the negotiations between Virgin, Singapore Airlines and Delta are ongoing, Virgin can’t say much. In addition, the airline has just announced details of its short-haul flights, and these headlines distract from that.
Neither of these facts will have escaped Willie Walsh. As he said in the same conversation with the press, “I’ve never had anything nice to say about Virgin, so you wouldn’t expect it now.”
Nevertheless, there’s little doubt that it’s a feverish time for Virgin, with reports of the negotiations between it, Delta and Singapore Airlines rumoured to be moving on quickly according to reports in both the FT and Sunday Times.
What Walsh also said was that Virgin proves competition for BA on every route that it flies. It would be a shame if that competition was removed, but that day is not in sight yet.
Business Traveller has contacted Virgin to see if the carrier wishes to respond to Willie Walsh's comments, and will post any reponse here.
Report by Tom Otley