Virgin Atlantic airline President Sir Richard Branson said he had on intention to invest in any Indian carrier at the moment even as the Indian government recently allowed foreign carriers to pick up 49 per cent stake in Indian airlines. He said the timing was not right, especially in view of the the excess capacity in the Indian market.
He said he might consider a proposal at the right time.
“It (investing in an Indian airline) is not out of possibility. We will have to look if we see an obvious opportunity. The (current) situation is difficult.
“There is excess capacity in the Indian market,” Mr. Richard Branson said at a press conference here.
Answering a question on what went wrong with Kingfisher Airlines owned by Vijay Mallya, someone who imitates Mr. Branson, he said he could only wish good luck to Mr. Mallya.
“I don’t know specifically as to what went wrong in this specific airline (Kingfisher). He (Mr. Mallya) has been fighting to keep it flying. He has just paid his employees. I hope he keeps flying the airline. The airline business is not easy. He has been trying for the last six months to keep flying, and I wish him and his employees well,” Mr. Branson said.
Mr. Branson was in Mumbai for the re-launch of his airline’s Mumbai to London service that was suspended since 2009. Now that the European economy is reviving and Kingfisher’s discontinuance of its flights to London has created a void, Virgin Atlantic is restarting its London-Mumbai daily flight from Monday.
This flight, to be operated by a brand new Airbus 330 aircraft, will provide onward connectivity to key destinations in the U.S. through London Heathrow airport.
At present, Virgin Atlantic operates a daily flight to New Delhi from London, and with the introduction of the Mumbai flight, the airline’s total investment in equipment and product programme would be more than 300 million pounds.
“Our arrival will offer the people of Mumbai more choice and better service. We will provide Indian entertainment and warm Indian crew. I am confident that people will chose to fly with Virgin Atlantic,” Mr. Branson added.
The airline will target business travellers, passengers visiting friends and family and leisure travellers. As usual, Mr. Branson promoted this flight in his unique way by travelling on Marine Drive in a Mumbai taxi flanked by his air hostesses.