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Richard Branson’s Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd. said it’s on course to attain a goal of restoring profitability this year, aided by lower fuel costs, its pact with Delta Air Lines Inc. and the strength of the U.K. economy.
The British carrier is set to snap three years of annual losses, Chief Executive Officer Craig Kreeger told Bloomberg Television [below], adding that there’s no credible evidence of the deadly Ebola outbreak in West Africa impacting travel demand.
“We’re confident we’ll get there,” he said of the profit target, which was set following losses of 51 million pounds ($81 million) in 2013 and 102 million pounds in 2012. “I’m not confident we will get there by a ton, but we will get there.”
Virgin Atlantic’s joint venture with minority shareholder Delta is delivering gains, while the U.K. economy remains robust, Kreeger said from the World Travel Market expo in London. While the U.S. pact is helping to fill planes, it in no way imperils Crawley-based Virgin’s independence, he added.
“I have absoloutely no qualms or anxiety whatsover that the Virgin Atlantic brand or Virgin Atlantic style is under any threat,” he said. “Delta needs us to be Virgin Atlantic. They need us to compete with British Airways like we always have.”
Kreeger said that Virgin’s shift to more efficient twin- engine planes from four-engines models such as the Airbus Group NV A340 will take some time, even though 60 percent of its fleet is to be replaced in 4 1/2 years, and the Boeing Co. 747 jumbo in particular will remain useful on leisure routes.
Passengers continue to prefer flying from London’s Heathrow hub, Kreeger said, and while there may be a case for examining the growth credentials of London Gatwick, the U.K. needs to develop one major hub. Virgin has operations at both airports, which are vying for the right to add a runway.
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