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Tue, Jun 24, 2003

BA Doesn't Want More Virgin Competition

Taking Its Concordes Off Flying Status

Virgin International, whose bids for Concordes has risen a million-fold (from 1 pound Sterling each, to the current offer of $8.3 million, for the five remaining flying examples from BA's fleet), won't be getting the airliners. That's what British Airways is saying; and the Concordes are theirs to dispose of.

BA, through spokesmen, has said that the Concorde is simply finished flying; 2003 will be its last year. As for Sir Richard Branson's (seen below, right) bids, British says that the airliners are just too old, and require too much maintenance -- something they weren't saying when they were spending millions to bring the fleet into spec, just a couple years ago.

The Concorde, always a marginal contributor to both BA's and Air France's bottom lines, has been a money-loser since before the July, 2000 crash; but its prestige was never in doubt. Since September of 2001, though, with airlines' hitting harder-yet times, the Concordes' inordinate need for attention, and its decreasing profitability, have brought the beautiful old birds to the ground, probably for good.

Branson thinks he could make money with the Concorde

He issued a statement this weekend that said, "We have operators ready to help us keep it flying and would serve New York, Barbados -- and Dubai, a new destination for the plane." That may be, in fact, why BA doesn't want him to have it.

It was easy for British Airways management to reject Branson's original bid; the more-serious $8.3 million, though, can't be simply ignored. Now, British Airways spokeswoman Jo Devereux says simply, "The aircraft are not for sale."

BA also rejected a reported offer by Branson, of $1.66 million, to help set up a trust that would keep two Concordes in flying trim, for what he called, 'semi-commercial' use.

FMI: www.british-airways.com; www.virgin-atlantic.com

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