Historically, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic have been fierce rivals.
In the early 1990’s, Virgin Atlantic boss Richard Branson successfully claimed £500,000 in damages against British Airways for the so called Dirty Tricks campaign against Virgin Atlantic. This essentially involved British Airways poaching customers from Virgin Atlantic. British Airways also allegedly tampered with confidential files and leaked anti Virgin Atlantic stories to the press.
During the mid to late 1990’s, Virgin Atlantic had “NO WAY BA/AA” painted on the rear of their aircraft. This was due to the airline opposing the proposed merger between British Airways and American Airlines.
When British Airways ditched their Landor livery in favour of their world tails, once more Virgin Atlantic were very quick to act. They soon announced that they would be painting the Union Flag on the winglets and noses of their aircraft. The following year, when the airline unveiled the silver dream machine livery, “Britain’s Flag Carrier” was also painted on the nose.
From the outside looking in, it appears to be mostly one way traffic. However insiders claimed that Lord King, former CEO of British Airways was “obsessed” with trying to bring Virgin down.
By the mid 2000’s, the rivalry had calmed down. By 2006, Lord King had left British Airways. The continually changing business plan of Virgin Atlantic meant that the competition between the two airlines wasn’t quite as fierce as it once was.
In 2013, Virgin Atlantic launched domestic services to compete with British Airways. However, by 2015 this venture had sunk. Once more, Richard Branson was quick to mention British Airways in a statement when the airline closed.
When the competition authorities allowed British Airways to take over British Midland and all of its slots, we feared there was little we could do to challenge BA’s huge domestic and European network built through decades of dominance.Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Atlantic president
To remedy this, we were offered a meagre package of slots with a number of constraints on how to use them and we decided to lease a few planes on a short-term basis to give it our best shot.
The odds were stacked against us and sadly we just couldn’t attract enough corporate business on these routes.
So Are Things About To Kick Off Again?
I very much doubt it. At least not to the degree of what was witnessed in the 1990’s.
So whats the point of this post? Well, a few days ago a British Airways flight broke the record for the fastest sub-sonic flight across the Atlantic. In True Virgin Atlantic style, they were quick to jump in and have their say:
Fair point I suppose.
Not to take it lying down though, British Airways had a small pop back at Virgin in a press release. Announcing an increase in frequency between London and St. Lucia, their press release read:
British Airways is set to be the only airline with a regular multi-weekly scheduled service between the UK and St Lucia, following Virgin Atlantic’s decision to stop serving the route after 8 June 2020.British Airways Press Release
As mentioned, its hardly the dirty tricks campaign of years gone by. But it would appear that the two airlines rivalry is set to continue into the 2020’s.
I wonder what games Virgin will play when they relaunch their flights to Cape Town in October 2020….