Air France-KLM is buying 31% of Virgin Atlantic, leaving Richard Branson’s parent company, Virgin Group, with a minority stake in the airline he founded.
Air France-KLM is taking the £220 million ($286 million)-stake in Virgin Atlantic as part of a four-way joint-venture with Delta.
Virgin Group’s share will fall from 51% to 20%, while Delta will retain 49%.
Richard Branson said he would remain “very much involved” after the deal.
In an open letter, he said that the new joint-venture would be “extremely beneficial” to the airline, customers and the brand, and recalled key moments in Virgin Atlantic’s history, striking a valedictory tone.
Air France-KLM CEO Jean-Marc Janaillac said the deal would give customers “even more choice between Europe, UK and the United States via twelve hubs on both sides of the Atlantic”.
Virgin and Delta have operated a joint-venture for almost five years, plying the busy routes between Europe and the US.
Competition has intensified in recent years, with newcomers including Norwegian and British Airways’ low-cost Level service offering no-frills long-haul flights.
The new venture, which will also include troubled Italian carrier Alitalia, will operate 300 transatlantic flights per day.
In a joint press release Virgin and its partners said the venture would offer “convenient flight schedules with competitive fares and reciprocal frequent flyer benefits, including the ability to earn and redeem miles across all carriers”.
Virgin Atlantic, set up in 1984, was one of the earliest companies in Richard Branson’s Virgin brand portfolio.
In his open letter, Richard Branson recalled its eventful rivalry with British Airways, the impact of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the financial crisis.
Richard Branson wrote that as he got older he was keen to ensure that “all the necessary building blocks are in place for Virgin Atlantic to continue to prosper and grow for the next 50 years”.
While transatlantic routes are among the most lucrative, Virgin has had mixed fortunes in recent years.
In 2016, Virgin reported its best profits for five years, but the company warned earlier this year that it was likely to go into the red again in 2017 as the weaker pound pushed up costs and put off holiday-makers.
Virgin Group founder Richard Branson has been injured in a bike crash.
The businessman says he thought he was “going to die” after crashing his bike on Caribbean island Virgin Gorda.
Richard Branson, 66, said he was “extremely fortunate” only to have suffered a cracked cheek and torn ligaments.
He was cycling down a hill when he hit a speed bump, and “the next thing I knew, I was being hurled over the handlebars and my life was literally flashing before my eyes.”
In a post on the Virgin website, Richard Branson said: “I was heading down a hill towards Leverick Bay when it suddenly got really dark and I managed to hit a sleeping policeman hump in the road head on.
Virgin’s Richard Branson is offering his personal staff as much vacation as they want
“I really thought I was going to die. I went flying head-first towards the concrete road, but fortunately my shoulder and cheek took the brunt of the impact, and I was wearing a helmet that saved my life.
“We’ve since recovered the crumpled bicycle, completely destroyed. My cheek has been badly damaged and my knee, chin, shoulder and body severely cut.”
Richard Branson said his assistant, Helen, was first on the scene as he was “lying prostrate on the road” and then another member of his team, George, “sprinted from the bottom of the hill” to assist.
The businessman traveled to Miami for X-rays and scans, and later posted pictures online showing his bloodied face.
The accident happened on the fifth anniversary of a fire which destroyed Richard Branson’s luxury home on Necker Island.
Richard Branson was cycling with his children Holly and Sam as part of his training for the Virgin Strive Challenge endurance event from the base of the Matterhorn in the Alps to the summit of Mount Etna in Sicily.
He still hopes to take part in the event.
“My attitude has always been, if you fall flat on your face, at least you’re moving forward,” he said.
“All you have to do is get back up and try again. At least I’m practicing what I preach – though a little too literally!”
Richard Branson made headlines earlier this week when his Twitter account posted CCTV images appearing to show British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn walking past empty unreserved train seats before he was filmed sitting on the floor complaining about “ram-packed” carriages on a Virgin Trains service.
Alaska Air Group has confirmed plans to acquire Virgin America in a $4 billion deal.
The merger will create the fifth largest US airline.
The deal will enable Seattle-based Alaska to expand into lucrative hubs such as San Francisco and Los Angeles.
The two boards “unanimously approved” the deal, which will see Alaska acquire Virgin America for $57 a share.
However, Virgin founder Richard Branson said there was “sadly nothing [he] could do to stop” the deal.
It is the first US commercial airline merger since US Airways and American Airlines combined in 2013 to make the world’s largest carrier.
Virgin America, which accounts for about 1.5% of US domestic flight capacity, was listed on the US stock market in 2014 as an offshoot of London-based Virgin Group.
In a company blog, Richard Branson said: “I would be lying if I didn’t admit sadness that our wonderful airline is merging with another.
“Because I’m not American, the US Department of Transportation stipulated I take some of my shares in Virgin America as non-voting shares, reducing my influence over any takeover. So there was sadly nothing I could do to stop it.”
Richard Branson added that consolidation is a trend that “cannot be stopped”, with the four largest airlines now controlling more than 80% of the US market.
Alaska and its partner regional airlines, which in total account for about 5% of US domestic flight capacity, serve more than 100 cities in the US, Canada, Costa Rica and Mexico.
If the deal gets approval from US government regulators and Virgin America shareholders, the companies expect to complete the transaction by January 1, 2017.
Brad Tilden, chairman and chief executive of Alaska Air Group, said: “With our expanded network and strong presence in California, we’ll offer customers more attractive flight options for non-stop travel.”
Virgin America shares surged 40% to $54.52 – just below the offer price – in early trading.
Alaska, which was reported to have beaten competition from rival airline Jet Blue for the company, fell 4.7% to $78.15.
The investigation into the Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo crash in California’s Mojave Desert could take about a year, the head of the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has said.
Christopher Hart said Virgin Galactic would be able conduct further test flights while the investigation took place.
SpaceShipTwo broke up in mid-air during a test flight on October 31.
One of the pilots was killed and the other injured.
Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson says he is “determined to find out what went wrong” and learn from the tragedy.
The NTSB team had completed its first full day of investigation, Christopher Hart said, and would be examining evidence at the scene for four to seven days.
He said the craft’s debris was spread over an area measuring five miles from end to end.
Christopher Hart told a news conference the test flight had been “heavily documented” and his team would have to trawl through “extensive data”, which was why the full investigation could take “about 12 months or so”.
Peter Siebold, right, survived the incident but his co-pilot, Michael Alsbury, died
He said there were six cameras on the craft itself, with another three on its launcher, an aircraft called WhiteKnightTwo, although it was unclear whether SpaceShipTwo’s cameras had been found.
The co-pilot who died when SpaceShipTwo disintegrated shortly after take-off was named as 39-year-old Michael Alsbury.
The pilot who survived was identified as Peter Siebold. Scaled Composites, the company both pilots worked for, said Peter Siebold, 43, was “alert and talking with his family and doctors”.
Christopher Hart said his team was waiting for doctors to allow them to interview Peter Siebold.
Speaking earlier at the at the Mojave Air and Space Port, where the craft was being developed, Richard Branson said “nobody underestimates the risks involved in space travel”.
Virgin Galactic had hoped to launch commercially in 2015. It has already taken more than 700 flight bookings at $250,000 each, with Sir Richard pledging to travel on the first flight.
The spacecraft was flying its first test flight for nine months when it crashed near the town of Bakersfield.
Virgin Galactic said SpaceShipTwo had experienced “a serious anomaly” after it separated from WhiteKnightTwo.
SpaceShipTwo craft was using a new type of rocket fuel never before used in flight, although officials said it had undergone extensive ground testing.
US authorities are investigating why Virgin Galactic’s space rocket crashed over California’s Mojave desert on a test flight.
One pilot died and the other was badly injured when SpaceShipTwo exploded shortly after take-off on October 31.
A National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) team arrived in Mojave on November 1 and was heading to the crash site.
Virgin Group founder Richard Branson said he was “determined to find out what went wrong” and learn from the tragedy.
The dead pilot was named as 39-year-old Michael Alsbury. The pilot who survived Friday’s crash has not been identified.
Speaking at the at the Mojave Air and Space Port, where the craft was being developed, Richard Branson said “nobody underestimates the risks involved in space travel”.
SpaceShipTwo was flying its first test flight for nine months when it crashed shortly after take-off near Bakersfield (photo EPA)
Virgin had hoped to launch commercially in 2015. It has already taken more than 700 flight bookings at $250,000 each, with Richard Branson pledging to travel on the first flight.
“We owe it to our test pilots to find out what went wrong, and once we find out, if we can overcome it, we will make sure that the dream lives on,” Richard Branson added.
Richard Branson said Virgin Galactic and its partners had “been undertaking a comprehensive testing program for many years and safety has always been our number one priority”.
A team of between 13 and 15 NTSB investigators – including specialists in structures, systems, engines and vehicle performance – arrived in Mojave on Saturday morning and would begin on-site work later in the day, NTSB acting chairman Christopher Hart said.
Their work would include detailed examination of all available data, work at the crash site and interviewing witnesses, Christopher Hart said.
“This was a test flight and test flights are typically very well documented in terms of data,” he added.
Wreckage from the crash is scattered across a large area of the Mojave desert, north-east of Los Angeles. Police secured the site amid fears that some of the debris could be explosive.
SpaceShipTwo was flying its first test flight for nine months when it crashed shortly after take-off near Bakersfield.
In a statement, the company said SpaceShipTwo experienced “a serious anomaly” after the craft separated from its launcher, an aircraft called WhiteKnightTwo.
WhiteKnightTwo landed safely.
It later emerged that the space craft was burning a new type of rocket fuel never before used in flight, although officials said it had undergone extensive ground testing.
Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo space tourism craft crashed in Mojave desert killing at least one person, the California Highway Patrol has said.
The craft was flying a manned test when it experienced what the company described as “a serious anomaly”.
SpaceShipTwo is carried aloft by a jet, then launched into sub-orbit.
Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson tweeted he was flying to California “to be with the team”.
“Thoughts with all @virgingalactic & Scaled, thanks for all your messages of support,” Richard Branson said.
Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo space tourism craft crashed in Mojave desert killing at least one person
Television images shot from a helicopter showed what appeared to be wreckage bearing the Virgin logo.
In a statement, Virgin Galactic said the “vehicle suffered a serious anomaly resulting in the loss of SpaceShipTwo”. The aircraft that held the spaceship, known as White Knight 2, has landed safely, Virgin Galactic said.
Ken Brown, a photographer who witnessed the crash, said the craft exploded after it was released from a plane that carries it to a high altitude.
Kern County Sheriff’s spokesman told the Reuters news agency the craft’s co-pilot was killed, while the pilot ejected and was seriously injured.
Virgin Galactic has been a front-runner in the nascent space-tourism industry and Sir Richard said earlier in October he expected to see the craft make it to sub-orbital space within a few months.
More than 800 people have already paid or put down deposits for a trip on SpaceShipTwo, which costs about $200,000 per person.
Virgin Atlantic will stop running Little Red in 2015 after just 18 months in operation.
Virgin Atlantic launched its UK domestic flight network in March 2013.
The flights between London Heathrow and Manchester will stop in March 2015, while those between Heathrow and Edinburgh and Aberdeen will end in September.
Little Red was intended to act as a feeder airline for trans-Atlantic routes. The service was designed to challenge British Airways.
The aim was to help long-haul Virgin customers connect with other parts of the UK, but Virgin said most passengers were using it as a standalone service.
Virgin Atlantic will stop running Little Red in 2015 after just 18 months in operation
At its launch, the company pledged the airline would deliver “Virgin Atlantic’s rock-and-roll spirit as well as real value for money”.
Virgin said that bookings “grew steadily” in the early part of this year, but few of these were passengers connecting with long-haul Virgin flights.
“Little Red has unfortunately not been able to make a positive contribution to Virgin Atlantic’s network,” the company said.
Virgin Atlantic added that a scarcity of available slots and the speed with which the new service was launched had hampered its success.
Richard Branson, Virgin Atlantic’s president, said: “When the competition authorities allowed British Airways to take over British Midland and all of its slots, we feared there was little we could do to challenge BA’s huge domestic and European network built through decades of dominance.
“To remedy this, we were offered a meagre package of slots with a number of constraints on how to use them and we decided to lease a few planes on a short-term basis to give it our best shot.
“The odds were stacked against us and sadly we just couldn’t attract enough corporate business on these routes.”
Virgin’s Richard Branson is offering his personal staff as much vacation as they want.
On his website, Richard Branson said that his staff of 170 could “take off whenever they want for as long as they want”.
He added that there was no need to ask for approval, nor say when they planned to return, the assumption being that the absence would not damage the company.
Richard Branson said he was inspired by his daughter, who read about a similar plan at the online TV firm Netflix.
“It is left to the employee alone to decide if and when he or she feels like taking a few hours, a day, a week or a month off,” wrote the billionaire.
Virgin’s Richard Branson is offering his personal staff as much vacation as they want
“The assumption being that they are only going to do it when they feel a 100% comfortable that they and their team are up to date on every project and that their absence will not in any way damage the business – or, for that matter, their careers!”
He added that he had introduced the policy in the UK and the US “where vacation policies can be particularly draconian”. If it goes well there, Richard Branson said he would encourage subsidiaries to follow suit.
“We should focus on what people get done, not on how many hours or days worked. Just as we don’t have a nine-to-five policy, we don’t need a vacation policy,” he wrote.
The blog is an excerpt from a forthcoming book.
Virgin Group employs more than 50,000 people around the world and operates in more than 50 countries.
Richard Branson started the company in 1970 and it has gone from mail order record company to having businesses in telecoms, travel and financial services.
Richard Branson lifted up his kilt to the watching crowd to reveal pants bearing the slogan “stiff competition” as he stepped off the first Virgin plane at Edinburgh airport from Heathrow.
The Virgin Atlantic president performed his latest publicity stunt as he promoted his company’s expansion into Scotland.
“Stiff competition” alluded to Richard Branson’s newly launched domestic service, Little Red, which will now offer Virgin flights between Edinburgh and Aberdeen, and London, in direct competition with British Airways.
Richard Branson lifted up his kilt to the watching crowd to reveal pants bearing the slogan “stiff competition” as he stepped off the first Virgin plane at Edinburgh airport from Heathrow
Richard Branson – who had a Scottish grandmother and is married to a Glaswegian – stood on an elevated platform on the windy runway and said it was “great to be in Edinburgh” before he exposed his underwear to a crowd which included Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.
Speaking after the stunt, the billionaire said he was “enjoying wearing a kilt”.
“Despite the weather it is nice to have a bit of fresh air and it is very comfortable,” he added.
“I’ve got to the age where it is wise to always wear something under my kilt- especially in weather like this.”
This is not the first time Richard Branson has resorted to such uncouth publicity stunts.
The new Little Red service launched yesterday will be the first time Virgin Atlantic has operated connecting flights from Scottish destinations, and Richard Branson said he was “excited” to have been given the airport slots that came available after domestic airline British Midlands was forced out of business.
“We are delighted that we managed to pick up these slots as it means we can offer stiff competition to British Airways,” he said.
“There are a lot of people from around the world who love to fly to Edinburgh and Aberdeen and now we can finally now compete properly with BA and give people the opportunity to travel up here with Virgin.
“I look forward to a long and fruitful relationship with Scotland.”
The expanded Virgin Atlantic service will create 130 new jobs in Scotland, and is expected to generate £75 million ($118 million) in revenue for the Scottish economy.
Speaking yesterday, Richard Branson said that while he was “thrilled” that Virgin had finally been allowed to expand services to Edinburgh and Aberdeen, he was unhappy that they had been prevented from operating out of Glasgow.
“I would love to be flying to Glasgow as well, but for some bizarre reason the competition authorities, who bequeathed us these slots, didn’t allow us to have the slots to compete with British airways out of Glasgow,” he said.
After reporting losses of up to £135 million ($212 million) over the past two years, Richard Branson and Virgin Atlantic’s new Chief Executive, Craig Kreeger, said that the new domestic service was just one part of the company’s plans to push its finances back into the black.
And despite his brazen publicity stunt, Richard Branson was insistent that he would remain on neutral ground over the question of Scottish Independence.
“If Scotland becomes independent they will have an airline that will be delighted to connect them to their neighboring country and if it stays part of Great Britain, we will be equally delighted to have Scottish people use our services to take visits down to little old England,” said Richard Branson.
Either way, Virgin will stay independent of this particular debate.”