Richard Branson, Chairman of Virgin Atlantic

This is a partial transcript from Your World with Neil Cavuto, April 17, 2003, that was edited for clarity. Click here for complete access to all of Neil Cavuto's CEO interviews.

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BRENDA BUTTNER, GUEST HOST: If my next guest gets his way, we could soon see the first commercial flight to Baghdad within days. I kid you not. Richard Branson says he wants to do his part to aid Iraq. The chief of Virgin Atlantic Airlines joins us now from Las Vegas to explain.

Sir, thanks so much for joining us.


BUTTNER: So to Baghdad; yes?

BRANSON: Well, the first flights won’t be commercial. They will be humanitarian. And what we are trying to do is to get as many volunteer nurses, doctors, surgeons, to Baghdad as possible, to help with this absolute crisis of health disasters that Iraq is facing. And so we put an Internet site up with, we are getting volunteers, putting their names up, and then we will be back in touch with them next week, and telling them when the first flight will go. And we are obviously hoping that we will be able to get it off within about seven days.

BUTTNER: Do you also hope to offer commercial services some point, perhaps reuniting family and friends?

BRANSON: The very first thing I think is just to tackle the medical problems of the people in Iraq. After that, Iraq is going to need scheduled services. People need flights to get all the visiting relatives back who have been overseas for the last 15, 20 years. It is going to need flights to get freight in. It’s going to need flights to get business going again. Virgin Atlantic said that we would be happy and willing to start scheduled flights to Iraq as early as government forces feel would it be safe for us to do so.

BUTTNER: Well, congratulations for you for taking this on. Sir, the war has not been kind to many of your competitors, how has it hurt you?

BRANSON: Virgin Atlantic -- rather surprisingly -- I think has done well. I mean, we have been out there competing with American, competing with United and competing with British Airways. And we remain profitable, which, considering what rest of airline industry has gone through, is quite surprising. I think that, you know, if you can create a really good quality airline, and you can encourage more people to fly on you, you can still do well in this difficult climate. So fortunately we are still here and hopefully starting new routes along the way.

BUTTNER: You are in fact remaining profitable, and that is very rare in the airline business these days. Do you think you are going to take on Concorde?

BRANSON: We have said to the government that because British Airways has decided to mothball Concorde in September and put it in a museum that we believe that is wrong. Concorde has another 15 good years of flying to go. It was funded by the British taxpayer, not by British Airways, and, therefore, we have said to the British government that we feel that Concorde should be handed over to Virgin Atlantic that has a lower cost base. And so we can keep the magnificent plane flying. And we can keep supersonic travel for another 10 or 15 years. So I hope by September or October you will see Concorde in Virgin colors, not British Airway colors.

BUTTNER: Hmm. And you are also taking on many of our carriers here. You are in Las Vegas for reason. You have been competing over here in these skies.

BRANSON: We are extending our services to Las Vegas, at the moment we’re the only airline flying direct from Britain to Las Vegas. We’re going to be putting on more flights. And we are also exploring the idea of actually setting up Virgin in America, taking on the major airlines here, because we think you need more airlines offering lower fares.

BUTTNER: All right, sir, thank you very much, and good luck with your work in Baghdad.

BRANSON: Thanks a lot.

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