Sir Richard Branson has moved to refute rumours that Virgin Atlantic will disappear as a brand.
BREAKING NEWS: Delta agrees deal to buy 49 per cent of Virgin Atlantic
Branson responded today to reports in the UK media that he could be about to give up control of the airline he set up 28 years ago.
Willie Walsh, chief executive of British Airways’ owner IAG, also suggested that Virgin Atlantic may disappear if US airline Delta gains control of Singapore Airlines’ 49 per cent stake in Virgin.
Branson said these rumours were “wishful thinking and totally misguided” and instead offered Walsh a £1 million bet on whether the Virgin Atlantic brand would survive for the next five years. Walsh has reportedly responded to Branson's suggestion by offering a "knee in the groin" to the loser rather than £1 million.
“Will BA never learn? Let's see how much they believe this. Let them put their money where their mouth is,” said Branson in his blog.
“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.”
Branson added that Virgin Atlantic was still “my baby” and a “much cherished” part of the Virgin Group.
“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,” said Branson.
“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?
Virgin Atlantic also announced today (December 10) its plans to offer 24 daily domestic flights from Heathrow to Manchester, Edinburgh and Aberdeen.
Walsh, who is currently in South Korea to celebrate BA's new service from Heathrow to Seoul, told UK news outlets: "I don't think £1 million would hurt him. I don't have £1 million, so a knee in the groin, maybe - that would be as painful to him as it might be to me."