SIR Richard Branson yesterday vowed to keep control of Virgin Atlantic and branded IAG boss Willie Walsh as “misguided” for claiming the brand would be ditched by American suitor Delta Air Lines.
Branson said: “Rumours have been spread in the press that I am planning to give up control of Virgin Atlantic and, according to Willie Walsh, that our brand will soon disappear.
“This is wishful thinking and totally misguided.”
Delta is in talks with Singapore Airlines to buy its 49 per cent stake in Virgin Atlantic, which Branson launched in 1984. IAG chief executive Walsh yesterday claimed Delta’s main interest in Virgin Atlantic was its lucrative slots at London’s Heathrow airport and the US carrier would not want to keep the Virgin brand.
A source familiar with Branson’s thinking said Virgin Atlantic would form a joint venture on transatlantic flights with Delta if the US airline bought Singapore Airlines’ stake in the British carrier.
Delta and Virgin Atlantic’s plan to set up a revenue-sharing deal on flights between Britain and the United States would involve code-sharing, allowing both to sell flights on the other airline and share revenues from ticket sales, the source said.
The joint venture could lead to the pair sharing costs and bringing prices and schedules into line, the source added.
The partnership would be similar to that operated by American Airlines and IAG’s British Airways since 2010 on transatlantic flights between Canada, Mexico, the US and many European cities.
Delta has long hoped to break into capacity-constrained Heathrow airport.