Virgin targets business passengers to ease loss

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The Independent Online

Virgin Express, the discount airline owned by Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Group, is seeking to beef up its marketing clout and place greater emphasis on business passengers as it battles to regain profitability.

Virgin Express, the discount airline owned by Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Group, is seeking to beef up its marketing clout and place greater emphasis on business passengers as it battles to regain profitability.

The Brussels-based carrier said yesterday that its distribution system was not sufficient to fill its aircraft, which competes head to head with those of Ireland's Ryanair, the soon-to-be-floated easyJet and British Airway's Go.

The frank assessment accompanied notice of second-quarter losses of 6.4m euros (£3.88m), as rising fuel costs and adverse exchange rate movements undermined Virgin Express's performance. David Hoare, chairman, said: "We lack distribution to the business market, via travel agents, who use computer reservation systems. Plans are well advanced to widen this distribution network for the fourth quarter." Mr Hoare also said the carrier needed to sharpen up its marketing, which is widely seen as under par compared with competitors' efforts.

Yesterday's results for the three months to 30 June showed fuel costs jumped 91 per cent compared with a year ago and the dollar gained 12 per cent against the euro. Much of Virgin Express's earnings are in euros, but costs, including fuel, are denominated in dollars.

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