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Will be third time lucky in India: Branson

Virgin Atlantic founder Richard Branson with Mahindra Group chairman Anand Mahindra in Mumbai.

Virgin Atlantic founder Richard Branson with Mahindra Group chairman Anand Mahindra in Mumbai.   | Photo Credit: Paul Noronha

Virgin Atlantic founder says country to be its third-largest market after U.K., U.S.

Virgin Group founder Richard Branson said India would be Virgin Atlantic’s third largest market after the U.K. and U.S. in 2020 and his airline has lined up expansion plans for the market after Jet Airways, its erstwhile code share partner, went bust.

He said India held a special place in his heart and Virgin Atlantic would continue to invest to tap the potential.

The Mumbai-London route has seen a 25% growth in the number of air passengers in the last five years even as capacity is down by 30-40% in the sector since Jet Airways shut operations.

“It is very sad... what is happening here. A very good airline has disappeared,” he said.

Recently, the airline restarted the Mumbai-London Heathrow route which has received ‘encouraging’ response. This is the third time that the airline had entered the Mumbai market [first two instances being 2005-2009 and 2012-2015] as it had pulled out due to unviability of the sector. He said, “We will be third time lucky and I want to make it an advertisement campaign.”

He said besides the connection to Mumbai, the airline would operate its second daily flight between Delhi and London from March 29, 2020. It is also looking at the Benguluru market, top executives said.

Grandma connection

Virgin Atlantic also announced the introduction of its new Indian flying icon called Aria which will feature on the side of its aircraft from 2020. Aria is the name of Sir Richard’s great great grandfather’s wife, who was from Cuddalore, Tamil Nadu.

My past generations were living in India. Since 1793, four generations are living here and my great grand mother was an Indian married to one of the Bransons. We had a grainy picture of her. And it turned my great great grand mother Aria into a symbol on our plane which will be flying to Mumbai,” Sir Branson said while unveiling the flying icon which will be painted on the aircraft’s fuselage.

“Thirty five years ago, I started with one plane. It was founded the same year my daughter was born. I have seen Virgin Atlantic growing up and now grown up to a 35-year-old woman,” he added.

He said he was looking forward to board the Virgin Galactic space flight soon. This venture will herald a new era in space tourism.

He also said besides the Virgin Hyperloop One project, his new exciting venture would be the cruise business, which he would be unveiling early next year.

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Printable version | Feb 19, 2020 12:08:03 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/business/will-be-third-time-lucky-in-india-branson/article30279586.ece

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