Branson: UK “a third world country” if action on aviation not taken

Posted on 9 Jul 2012

Virgin’s founder and entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson urged government to make a decision on airline growth yesterday, or Britain will fall behind the rest of the world.

This is the latest contribution to the ongoing debate on taxes on air travel and on whether Heathrow should be expanded or a new airport in the Thames should be built.

Speaking at the launch of new Virgin Atlantic routes to Mexico and Russia, Branson said: “What we ought to be talking about is wholesale expansion to Asia, to Africa, to South America, and options on routes that are not currently serviced.”

He said that has not been possible in the current situation, and added: “Millions of travellers across the world are going to other European cities rather than coming to the UK and that affects every single aspect of the UK. In time it will turn into a third world country – it’s that serious.”

According to Branson, the answer is the expansion of Heathrow, where Virgin Atlantic hopes to be able to get at least some of the 12 slots British Airways is forced to sell after the takeover of BMI. This would allow Virgin Atlantic to start competing with BA on the short haul market too, as the airline pledged to launch a London-Moscow route next year.

Virgin Atlantic Airways chief executive Steve Ridgway said: “The competition that we have provided to BA on the long-haul destinations, we can now do that on short haul.”