Although Sir Richard Branson never owned a majority stake in Virgin America, he always considered it an integral part of his global Virgin family and infused it with innovative ideas for passenger services and amenities. And now Branson has said good-bye.
From 2004 to 2007, Branson guided the nascent venture – initially called Virgin USA – through the difficult process of finding U.S. investors (U.S. law requires that domestic airlines be owned mainly by U.S. citizens) and winning regulatory approval. Virgin America won that approval on March 20, 2007, and now 10 years later, new owner Alaska Airlines has decided to phase out the Virgin brand.
In a web posting this week titled “Dear Virgin America,” Branson waxed philosophic about the impending demise of the Virgin America brand.
“Many years ago, I shed tears over selling my beloved Virgin Records for $1 billion, which we needed to fight off British Airways’ Dirty Tricks campaign to try to put Virgin Atlantic out of business,” Branson wrote. “Many tears are shed today, this time over Alaska Airlines’ decision to buy and now retire Virgin America.” He noted that Alaska has “a very different business model,” and “could not find a way to maintain its own brand and that of Virgin America.”
Addressing Virgin America in the second person, Branson called it the best consumer airline in America: “You invented concepts like ‘moodlighting’ and ‘on-demand food,’ you reinvented cabin amenities from seat-to-seat chat to Netflix in the sky. You chose warm and soothing pink to purple moodlighting that transitions based on outside light. You proved it is possible to run a business with a strategy that does not rely on low fares and a dominant position alone: you attracted premium flyers with a fun and beautiful guest experience.”
Branson reminisced about the growth pains that Virgin went through and the successes it enjoyed in expanding its route network, enlarging its fleet, and finding a loyal following among both leisure and business passengers. “You would not believe the number of people who tell me how much they love flying Virgin America,” he wrote. “Keep expecting – and demanding – more from your airlines!”
As Alaska’s acquisition of Virgin moved toward completion last year, Branson said in media interviews that if the new owner didn’t preserve the Virgin America brand, he would start another new airline and revive it. But in his good-bye letter, he didn’t mention that possibility.
How do you feel about the loss of Virgin America? Please leave your comments below.
Check this out: One of my COOLEST flights ever on Virgin America- it’s still unbelievable to see:
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