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Virgin Atlantic launches Mumbai-London flights

Richard Branson lifted up one of the babes in his arms. Oh, and he also announced Virgin Atlantic's Mumbai-London flights



1 April, 2005: Sir Richard Branson emerged from the funky Virgin Atlantic aircraft in colourful kurta pyjama and folded his hands in a courteous namaste. He stepped o to the wing of the plane and smiled broadly, with a bevy of beauties, dressed in traditional sarees in tow. Drums of Maharashtra rolled in the background. Then he picked one of the babes around and lifted her up as photographers clicked furiously. Jaws dropped among journalists waiting with pen and scratchpad. 

Don't be surprised when Branson wears tree-bark and arrows when he takes Virgin Atlantic to Pygmy Kingdom. He is famous for performing even whackier stunts.

But here in Mumbai, he was on business. British entrepreneuer-millionaire-bratman Richard Branson had landed up to announce the launch his low-budget airline Virgin Atlantic's Mumbai-London flight services. Richard Branson's birds will fly thrice a week between London and Mumbai and he is planning to make this a daily service as soon as he gets the permission.

Branson favours an open skies policy. "It will be better if there is open skies between India and UK. This will enable some of the new entrants like Jet and Sahara to operate to more destinations in Britain and British airlines to India. This will benefit the customer as it would lead to lower fares," Branson said.

Virgin Atlantic hopes it will get more flights to India at the next round of bilateral talks between the British and Indian governments in April. Virgin Atlantic also plans to add Bangalore, Amritsar, Ahmedabad and Amrtisar to its destinations when possible.

"I use Virgin Atlantic as a bridge to various countries and possibly look at more businesses," he said.

Replying to a question, Branson said he is also having discussions in the telecom sector in India, but declined to elaborate.

Clear rules are necessary for investment in India, he said. He is also keen on sectors like financial services, health, music industry and, maybe, one day films too, with the virgin brand. 

Low-cost airlines' survival and bottomline depend on quality, reliability and service, Branson said.



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