The Engadget Interview: Sir Richard Branson, Chairman of Virgin Group

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Yesterday we sat down with Sir Richard Branson, Chairman of Virgin Group, in the first class cabin of Air Colbert on the inaugural flight of Virgin America. Richard’s day started with a rush through NY rain to make the plane that morning, and was losing his voice on top of it, but he was nice enough to spend a some minutes with us chatting up a few of his myriad of companies. We requested to speak to him about Virgin Galactic, but he isn’t allowed to comment on the current situation due to an ongoing investigation into the explosion at Scaled Composites.

Thank you for talking with us today. Congratulations on the flight!

Thank you very much.

How are you liking it?

[Laughs] Well, I’m biased. And we’ve spent years and years trying to get this Virgin born and off the ground, and so many people have put so much time and effort and sweat and toil into it. Our competitors have tried to smother it at birth and make sure it never happened, but now it’s finally happened. It’s the perfect birth, I can’t think of anything I’d change. She’s a beautiful baby, has got beautiful eyes, and I’m very very proud of her, very proud of what everyone’s done to get this.

It’s definitely been a well publicized fight to make this happen, what made it worth three and a half years to launch Virgin America?

I think anybody who’s traveled on the legacy carriers in America will know why people have to fight to try to compete with them. The quality of their service is almost non-existent. I wouldn’t say that’s particularly the fault of their crews, it’s the tools that those crews have been given by their masters, or they haven’t been given any tools, and the end result has been… If you look at any poll of the best airlines in the world, I’ve never seen an American carrier come anywhere but very very near the bottom. So, in a situation like that, it’s right for Virgin to come in and shake up that industry. The very fact that we come in and we offer that equality will mean that will lift those legacy carriers, it’ll be actually good for them. They’ll have to compete back, and I’m sure they will. But, you know, it’s up to our team that we always remain one step ahead.

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