A Canadian report this morning has revealed that Richard Branson’s Virgin Group has not, as many had thought, lost interest in new airlines.

It had been planning a Virgin Pacific long haul low cost international operation in conjunction with Air Canada to fly between Vancouver and Asia.

Branson is also listed as a minority holder in AirAsia X, the long haul low cost arm of AirAsia, in which he holds no known equity.

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The report is of interest in Australia for what it reveals about the long term interest Branson has in pursuing a further expansion of his brand given his 26% equity in Virgin Australia.  It is also interesting to keep in mind that even though Branson co-founded Virgin Blue in 1999 with its first CEO, Brett Godfrey, Mr Godfrey has gone on to keep a small equity in what is now Virgin Australia, and a long board level involvement with Canada’s WestJet carrier, which has thrived as a closely similar carrier in its business plan to the original Virgin Blue.

During Godfrey’s tenure at WestJet as a director since 2006 the carrier has done to Air Canada what Virgin Blue did to Qantas, which is to grow strongly at its expense and develop new price sensitive customer support.

Air Canada is only slowly moving towards doing to WestJet what Qantas did to Virgin Blue, by setting up its own version of Jetstar, which as the Canadian report makes clear, is a separate venture to the aborted Virgin Pacific concept.

Should there be a Virgin Pacific in the future, it will join the differently owned Virgin America, Virgin Australia and half Singapore Airlines owned Virgin Atlantic operations plus anything AirAsia X does, in encircling the Pacific from all but the Latin and Southern American quadrant.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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