Virgin Atlantic flies back to profit after turbulent year

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The Independent Online

Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Atlantic bounced back into the black last year, making a £10m profit .

The result represents a £100m turnaround from 2001-02 when the airline lost £92m after the terrorist attacks of 11 September and the worldwide downturn in air travel.

The profit for the year to April 2003 came despite a £100m fall in turnover to £1.4bn and a lack of traffic growth with passenger numbers static at four million.

Sir Richard said he was hopeful of making a profit from the airline in the current year despite difficult economic conditions, the impact of the Iraq war and the Sars virus.

He said Virgin would keep a firm grip on costs in the face of continuing pressure on yields. However, he ruled out any further job losses and said that Virgin had taken back about half of the 1,300 staff laid off after 11 September.

Sir Richard said he was "extremely determined" to see Concorde remain in the air and had been heartened by the interest shown by the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, Patricia Hewitt, in Virgin's attempts to take over the supersonic aircraft from British Airways.

If Virgin is successful in taking control of the seven-strong BA fleet it would probably introduce a two class service which would enable more people to afford to fly supersonic. The current return fare to New York with BA is £8,000.