Virgin Express hit

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VIRGIN EXPRESS Holdings, the European discount airline, said second-quarter profits fell by 8.8 per cent as air traffic delays in Europe and Nato's Balkan air strikes hit operating costs. The airline, part of Richard Branson's Virgin Group, said net income fell to 3.32m euros (pounds 2.2m) from 3.64m euros a year earlier.

The Brussels-based airline announced plans to fly non-stop between Berlin and London/ Stansted, Rome and Brussels.

Virgin Express has struggled with high costs and a dispute with pilots, who have called in Mr Branson to intercede with management. It forecasts a 10 per cent fall in unit costs this year.