Letter: Virgin passengers

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The Independent Online
Sir: I am writing about your leading article appealing for airlines to address the needs of their economy- class passengers as well as their

business travellers ('A need for civility at the back of the aircraft',

4 November).

Virgin's original aim was to give economy passengers excellent quality at very low prices.

Unlike Laker, we realised that in order to achieve our aims for economy passengers, we had to be the business person's favourite airline. By attracting them we have managed to save our economy-class passengers hundreds of millions of pounds in air fares since we set up nearly 10 years ago. In fact, our average economy fares across the Atlantic in real terms last year were 50 per cent less than the average ticket price in 1983 (the year before Virgin Atlantic started flying).

But (as the last Which? airline report confirmed), we have achieved that by increasing quality, not decreasing it.

The one area where I agree there is room for much improvement is the length of the check-in queues. The BAA has assured us that it is soon to implement a new system that should considerably help with this. Airlines should, as a result, have enough desks to cope more quickly (although with security checks it will never be perfect).

I remember my resentment as a young man travelling in economy being held back by a hostess while the business travellers disembarked from the plane. Now as an airline owner, I know that without these travellers all that Virgin offers its economy-class passengers - in both price and quality - would not be possible. So I've learnt to be kind to them (too)]

Kind regards,

RICHARD BRANSON

Chairman

Virgin Group of Companies

London, W8

4 November

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