Branson ‘plotting Gatwick return’ for Virgin Atlantic

Virgin Atlantic founder Sir Richard Branson has indicated his desire for the airline to return to Gatwick four years after pulling out during the pandemic.

Speaking ahead of the carrier’s 40th anniversary, he told the Sunday Times that he wanted to resume flights from the airport where the first Virgin Atlantic service took off for New York on June 22, 1984.

New routes to North America and beyond are due to be announced soon, some of which will eventually be from Gatwick. 

The airline retained ownership of its Gatwick take-off and landing slots, leasing them to easyJet, and Branson was quoted as saying it will return despite consolidating operations at Heathrow.

“It matters – it’s where we started. I will twist arms,” he said, while also revealing a succession plan that would see his children Sam and Holly take over the airline.

Holly is on the board of Virgin Group and serves as chief purpose and vision officer while Sam work as an informal advisor to the business.

Branson also pledged “ridiculously good” new Upper Class seats “better than BA first class”, based on the two-person Retreat Suite on the airline’s new Airbus A330s.

He pointed to Virgin Atlantic’s Heathrow-New York JFK flight powered entirely by sustainable aviation fuelled (SAF) as proof that current engines can safely take biofuels.

“Now it’s up to the fuel companies to supply the SAF. We have 25 years. It can be done,” he added.

His comments came as Iata director general Willie Walsh told the newspaper that he did not expect a third runway to be built at Heathrow due to its location and noise of flying over London.

He added: “You could and probably should see a second runway at Gatwick.”

London’s second airport is planning to bring a secondary runway into regular use.

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