Sir Richard Branson says Austin launch most successful in Virgin history

Virgin Group founder and Virgin Atlantic president Sir Richard Branson has hailed the airline’s Austin launch as its most succesful ever.

Speaking during launch celebrations in the Texan city, he said high load factors had given the carrier the confidence to increase services to daily from next spring.

“This is a time to celebrate coming to Austin. We have load factors of 75% which is tremendous for a new route, and that’s why we’ve had the confidence to announce we’re going daily,” he said.

“The fact we have 75% load factors is just unbelievable. It’s been the most successful new route we’ve ever launched. I think Virgin is the kind of airline that people from Austin will enjoy flying.”

Virgin Atlantic vice-president of global sales Lee Haslett described Austin as the “perfect brand fit” for the carrier as he said the “underserved” route was performing well for both leisure and corporate sales.

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“The pandemic gave us a chance to redefine our network plan and fleet plan and Austin has been on our radar for a while,” he said.

“If you look at the entrepreneurial culture within Austin and its heritage, it’s the perfect brand fit for Virgin Atlantic.

“It’s the fourth fastest-growing city in the US from a GDPR perspective and there are 116 people moving there per day. Corporate brands like Dell, Amazon and Facebook have also moved there.”

Haslett added Austin is delivering an average ticket value 20% above the rest of Virgin Atlantic’s US network because it’s a “really strong product” for both leisure and corporate travel.

“Customers are choosing us for the beautiful experience you get in the Clubhouse, our onboard product and our crew,” he said. “It’s a next-gen aircraft and we’re doing a great job of making it competitive.”

With issues at UK airports continuing to dominate national headlines, Haslett believes the strong start Austin has made – and Virgin Atlantic’s overall performance – is partly down to its “operational resilience”.

The airline had a near-perfect completion rate over the Easter period at a time when its competitors’ schedules were heavily affected by delays and cancellations.

“If you look at our operational performance over Easter we achieved a 99.6% completion rate and only had three sectors cancelled due to reasons outside of our control,” added Haslett.

“Customers are choosing us on this route and others across the network because our operational resilience is really strong.”

Virgin Atlantic is not finding recruitment a problem, said Haslett, as the airline kept “a large number of people” in a holding pool during the pandemic who were then re-hired “quickly and seamlessly” when international travel bounced back.

Pictured: Sir Richard Branson, Juha Jarvinen, chief commercial Officer at Virgin Atlantic, and Mukesh (Mookie) Patel, airport chief officer at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport were joined by the airline’s cabin crew to celebrate the new service.

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