Virgin Atlantic rules out continental Europe to US service until 2010

Virgin Atlantic has ruled out operating services from continental Europe to the US until 2010 or 2011, after previously suggesting it was keen to fly from a number of cities including Paris and Milan.

Group chairman Sir Richard Branson said: “We want to be careful not to start flying from Europe until a second-stage open-skies deal is ratified. We would like to see whether the second stage happens first.”

The next phase of open skies between Europe and the US is not expected until 2010 at the earliest and without progress on the second stage, governments could renege on the existing agreement.

Branson said he was unconcerned about being left behind by rivals. British Airways will begin services between the US and Paris or Brussels in June with a new subsidiary called OpenSkies.

But Branson admitted: “Ideally, we would like to operate from a number of European cities.”

He conceded Virgin has struggled to find the new aircraft it would require to operate continental services.
“At the moment we have a shortage of planes,” he said.

“Once the Boeing 787s [we have on order] come along in three years, it is possible we will operate services from continental Europe.”

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