Virgin Atlantic is the flagship business within Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Group. It is the UK's second largest long-haul carrier behind British Airways, although it is considerably smaller than its rival, carrying around 5m passengers a year, compared to BA's 35m. Although widely identified with Branson himself it has in effect been a joint venture since 2000, when Singapore Airlines acquired a 49% shareholding. The airline's reputation as a challenger brand was established in the 1990s by a bitter public relations battle with British Airways, in which Virgin was able to demonstrate that the national carrier had mounted a behind-the-scenes campaign to destabilise the new upstart. The resulting publicity secured Virgin Atlantic's future. The Virgin Group has diversified since then, establishing separate short-haul airlines in Australia, Africa and the US, all as partnerships with other companies (and several of which have since been acquired). Meanwhile, competition in the long-haul sector has remained challenging for Virgin Atlantic. At the end of 2012, Delta Air Lines of the US agreed to acquire Singapore Airlines' 49% stake, drawing Virgin into its SkyTeam alliance with Air France-KLM. The latter acquired an additional 31% stake in 2017, leaving Branson with just 20% of equity. Virgin Group also has investments in airlines in Australia and other markets, and is continuing to pursue a long-held dream to launch commercial space travel under the Virgin Galactic banner.
Capsule checked 18th November 2018
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Adbrands Daily Update 9th Jul 2019: Sir Richard Branson is to sell a 49% holding in his space tourism vehicle Virgin Galactic to a publicly traded shell company owned by venture capital firm Social Capital. The latter's founder Chamath Palihapitiya, a former Facebook executive, would be chairman of the resulting entity, which would be the first quoted spaceflight company. Social Capital is expected to invest $800m for its stake in the business.
Adbrands Daily Update 15th Jan 2019: Virgin Atlantic teamed up with delivery group Stobart and investment firm Cyrus to rescue failing UK regional airline Flybe for a rock-bottom price of £2.8m. Under the banner of joint venture Connect Airways, the consortium is offering to inject £100m of working capital into the struggling carrier, which would be used to feed passengers into Virgin Atlantic's network and that of its international partners Delta Air Lines and Air France KLM.
Adbrands Weekly Update 20th Sep 2018: Ads of the Week: "Depart the Everyday". Here's the debut spot from AMV BBDO for Virgin Atlantic, now more or less officially a unit of Delta Airlines and Air France, despite the Virgin brand. (Branson now has only a 20% stake in the business). It's really nice, and in all honesty superior to that last business-oriented film a couple of years back from Adam&Eve DDB voiced by Andy Serkis. That one actually made us tense not elated, whereas this is pure pleasure.
Adbrands Weekly Update 3rd Aug 2017: Sir Richard Branson is to surrender majority control of the Virgin Atlantic airline as part of a wide-ranging strengthening of its existing Transatlantic alliance with Delta Airlines of the US and Air France-KLM. Delta already has a 49% stake in the company, acquired from Singapore Airlines in 2014. Now Air France-KLM will purchase a 31% stake from Branson for around £220m. Virgin Group will retain the remaining 20%. At the same time, Delta and its Asian partner China Eastern Airlines will each acquire a 10% holding in Air France-KLM. Branson said Virgin Atlantic will continue to fly under its current name.
Adbrands Weekly Update 7th April 2016: Alaska Air was victorious in the bidding war for Virgin America, topping rival bids from JetBlue with an offer of $2.6bn. Providing regulatory approval is granted, the deal will establish the enlarged Alaska Air as the #5 US carrier, ahead of JetBlue. Based in Seattle, Alaska Air had revenues of $5.6bn in 2015, compared to $1.5bn for Virgin America. "Consolidation is a trend that sadly cannot be stopped," commented Richard Branson. "I would be lying if I didn't admit sadness that our wonderful airline is merging with another." No decision has been made on the future of the Virgin America brand, but it may not survive. In a statement, Alaska Air said only that "it will explore with the Virgin Group how the Virgin America brand could continue to serve a role in driving customer acquisition and loyalty to get the best from both brands." In other words, it all depends on how much Branson wants in the way of a license fee for the continued use of the Virgin name.
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