9:49 PM

Virgin Pretzels?

First, there was Virgin Atlantic Airlines. Then we all know Sir Richard Branson got into the space business, and helped fund the Burt Rutan-led project that flung SpaceShipOne into [not so deep, but deep enough to win the X-prize] space.

Then, we read that Sir Richard is launching Virgin America Airlines, to compete head-to-head with the low fare guys now flying those profitable North Atlantic routes. And just a few days ago, Sir Richard was everywhere in the media and the Internets, showing off his new Virgin Voyager enviroTrain, which runs on a fuel mix which is 20 per cent biodiesel, made from rapeseed, soybean and palm oils.

Then today, we see that Branson is jumping into the charter biz head-first. From Aero-News Network:

Virgin USA, the North American headquarters of Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, announced Tuesday the launch of Virgin Charter, a new online aircraft charter marketplace. Company representatives call Virgin Charter a full-service marketplace that brings together buyers who want to book private air travel with charter operators. Through Virgin Charter, sellers make their inventory available to a large customer base without changing the way they currently do business, and buyers search for available aircraft, negotiate pricing, purchase private air travel, and manage their entire trip online.
This is not the first time people have tried matchmaking in the charter market. In fact, there are many, many brokers out there doing virtually the same thing. One big difference with the Virgin operation, as is always the case with anything Sir Richard touches, is money, lots of money. It takes a great deal of shillings to grab market share, and I suspect Sir Richard has a few extra pounds hidden away just for this project.

And it looks like he's happily spending some of those shillings to acquire the right "walking stock":
The Virgin Charter team is led by founder and CEO Scott Duffy, a seasoned Internet executive and private aviation veteran who served as a managing director for one of the largest charter brokers of private aircraft in the world. The team also includes technology and aviation executives from Google, Expedia, eBay and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). Said Duffy, "Virgin Charter's centralized marketplace will revolutionize private aviation by providing tremendous efficiencies to what has been a highly fragmented industry."
But this announcement begs the question: What is next for Virgin? According to Sir Richard, they are in no mood to slow down:
"We’re really excited about Virgin Charter’s potential in the market," said Sir Richard Branson. "Buckle up and prepare for a lot more exciting news from this impressive team of technology and aviation experts."
So let's see, what haven't they taken on? Airliner manufacturing, perhaps? It's not to far a stretch to see Sir Richard pulling a few zillion out of petty cash and buying, oh, I don't know, maybe AIRBUS? Or they could just buy out the world's largest pretzel maker and corner the market for what is passed off these days as food on commercial flights.

Or my personal favorite: VLJs. Yes, it's true, Sir Richard could theoretically one day start designing and building a slick, well-marketed light twin jet, maybe a VLJ with the range to cross the pond? Now that would be news.

Go ahead, tell me that's not possible, I dare you. Because last week, who would have thought he was getting in the charter business? Oh that Sir Richard, always full of surprises. One thing is for sure...he is keeping the rest of the aviation industry on their toes, trying to figure out his next move.

You Might Also Like