This is a partial transcript from Your World with Neil Cavuto, July 16, 2003, that was edited for clarity. Click here for complete access to all of Neil Cavuto's CEO interviews.
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TERRY KEENAN, GUEST HOST: Well, if Sir Richard Branson gets his way, we could be flying cheap but still in style. The Virgin Group (search) chairman stating his plans to enter the U.S. market today. This on the very same day that he unveiled a plushy new upper-class cabin for his Virgin Atlantic fleet.
Joining me now from London, the man continuing to reach new heights, Sir Richard Branson.
And welcome. Good to have you with us.
SIR RICHARD BRANSON, VIRGIN GROUP CHAIRMAN: Good to be here, Terry.
KEENAN: I know. It’s late over there.
First of all, let’s talk about your plans to enter the U.S. market. I assume you’ll go up against the likes of JetBlue (JBLU) and Southwest (LUV). Why do you want to get into business here?
BRANSON: Well, I think that there are two different kinds of airlines. There’s the low-cost concept, which, I think, is perfect for shorter flights, and then there’s the long-haul market, which Virgin Atlantic serves, where we believe you’ve got to try to create the best- quality airline.
In America, you have got two very good low-cost airlines, Southwest and JetBlue, but there are many, many, many cities they don’t fly to, and I think, you know, Virgin has a very strong brand. We’ve been very successful in the mobile phone business in America and with Virgin Atlantic and the Mega stores.
And we think that there’s room for a third low-cost carrier in the States, like Virgin does in Australia very successfully. We think Virgin America will do very well in America.
KEENAN: Is that what you call it -- Virgin America -- because your Australian airline is Virgin Blue?
BRANSON: We have completely settled on the name. I mean our planes are actually red, so we may call it Virgin Red. But, in America, we call it Virgin Blue because redheads in Australia are called “blueys.” But we’ll see. But I suspect it will have Virgin somewhere in it.
KEENAN: Somehow I suspect that.
Let’s talk about your new upper-class here. I mean the less time I flew on Virgin, your upper class was pretty plush to begin with. You’re adding some bells and whistles, though?
BRANSON: Yes. You know, sadly, it looks like BA are going to ground Concorde in October. So there’s going to be a lot of Concorde flyers that are going to have to go somewhere.
We want them to fly on Virgin Atlantic, so we’ve created the most super luxury first-class cabin in the world. We’ve got separate stand-up bars. We’ve got separate masseuse areas. You’ll sit in a leather armchair when you get on board.
But, when you want to go to sleep, that armchair will turn into a completely flat mattress, you know, much larger and much, you know, longer and wider than any other first-class seat in the world. Basically, we’re just trying to knock the competition for six in the upper- market area.
But, instead of charging a first-class price, we’re going to charge a business-class fare, and we’re also going to take BA on and the other major airlines on the fares as well.
KEENAN: So it sounds like you’re trying to make it so nice that passengers don’t realize that they’re not going the speed of sound?
BRANSON: Yes. Obviously, the sad thing about Concorde -- and we’re still trying to fight to keep Concorde flying and -- if possible, you know, prize Concorde from British Airways and keep it flying, but failing that, we believe that super-luxury travel should exist on long haul.
KEENAN: I just want to ask you another quick question now. Your prime minister will be doing some flying, coming here to Washington on Thursday. How are things going for him in terms of public opinion over there?
BRANSON: Well, I think it’s proved quite difficult since the war because, you know, the premise for going to the war is being questioned, and I think that, you know, his popularity ratings have gone down, and I suspect, at the moment, he’s more popular in America than he is in the U.K., but I think he’ll bounce back.
KEENAN: You do? And this trip, you think, will perhaps help him?
BRANSON: I mean I would hope so. I mean I think, you know, the one positive thing that’s come out of the last, you know, few months is the closeness that Britain has with America, but, you know, obviously, difficulties have come out of it as well.
KEENAN: All right. Thanks for your thoughts on everything. Congratulations on your move to come to the U.S.
BRANSON: Thank you.
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