Virgin Atlantic probing ‘malicious’ safety-related comments posted by its staff on Facebook

Saturday, October 25, 2008, 14:13 by Aviation Correspondent

Virgin Atlantic, the airline based in the United Kingdom, has initiated an investigation into some of its crew members who allegedly criticised the carrier’s safety standards on social the networking website Facebook.

Comments were also posted on the website regarding passengers.

All the postings have now been removed from Facebook.

Virgin Atlantic has said that “some members” of its staff reportedly made “malicious” postings on Facebook relating to planes flying out of London’s Gatwick Airport.

A spokesman for Virgin Atlantic said: “The airline has started an immediate disciplinary investigation. Virgin Atlantic does not tolerate any criticism of its passengers or industry-leading safety standards and is taking this matter very seriously. Safety is the airline’s top priority and we operate our fleet of aircraft in strict compliance with all recommendations and regulations of manufacturers and safety authorities.”

“The company’s 5 Boeing 747 aircraft based at Gatwick,” the spokesman added, “are among the world’s newest and they were acquired from Boeing in 2001. The airline’s stringent maintenance regime includes routinely changing engines to guarantee efficient and safe performance.”

The spokesman reassured passengers that “very high standards of hygiene” are maintained on Virgin Atlantic’s aircraft and that “aircraft are cleaned following each flight, as well as deep-cleaned on a regular basis.”

Virgin Atlantic Airways Limited, operating as Virgin Atlantic, is owned by Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group (51%) and Singapore Airlines (49%). It operates long-haul routes between the United Kingdom and North America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and Australia from its main bases at London’s Heathrow Airport and London’s Gatwick Airport. The airline has a smaller base at Manchester Airport. The company holds a United Kingdom Civil Aviation Authority Type A Operating Licence, which permits it to carry passengers, cargo, and mail on aircraft with 20 or more seats.

The controversial news of postings on the website Facebook comes amid Virgin Atlantic going ahead with its ‘No Way BA/AA’ campaign, which was launched to oppose the proposed merger between British Airways, the national airline and flag carrier of the United Kingdom, and American Airlines, headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas, the United States, and also the largest carrier in the United States.

Richard Branson had unveiled, earlier in October 2008, the ‘Monster Monopoly’ campaign website that lists reasons why Virgin Atlantic believes that the proposed merger between British Airways and American Airlines “would be bad for consumers.”