3 Questions: Richard Branson


Q: Virgin just started flying between San Francisco and Orange County last week. Can you make a new route work during a serious recession?

A: Virgin America is 2 years old now. People are seeking it out. And what we’ve learned is people want us to fly more routes. Orange County is a very popular route, and we think it can be very successful. People work hard in the Bay Area, and they like to get to the sea and get their sun cream out. And there are a lot of business connections.

Q: The summer travel season took a hit last year due to the recession. Do you expect the number of airline travelers this summer to be roughly the same as last year?

A: Personally, I would say that would be the case.

I may be mistaken, but I think the recession has bottomed out. Personally, I don’t see a great revival in the next couple years. So the companies that do well will be the stronger companies that offer good value for the money. I think we could still see some failures in the airline industry, possibly some spectacular failures.

Q: Airlines last year responded to high jet-fuel prices by raising money in new ways, like charging travelers to check their bags. (Virgin charges $15 per bag.) Now that fuel prices are lower, will the airlines drop those fees?

A: It’s unlikely airlines will break rank and not charge for these kinds of things. But I think ticket prices will stay low or go lower.