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I would be lying if I didn’t admit sadness that our wonderful airline is merging with another. Because I’m not American, the US Department of Transportation stipulated I take some of my shares in Virgin America as non-voting shares, reducing my influence over any takeover. So there was sadly nothing I could do to stop it.
Branson reportedly owns a 22% share of Virgin America, but not a majority voting stake. So while he’ll become even wealthier after the sale to Alaska, he didn’t have any official say over whether or not to sell.
Clearly, Branson’s proud of what he built with Virgin America, and he’s sad to see that go:
Virgin America became the first airline to offer fleetwide WiFi, soothing mood lighting, touch-screen seatback entertainment, an on-demand food ordering platform, and power outlets at every seat on every flight. Our unique and stylish product and brilliant customer service have won every major travel award. The airline has also done something almost inconceivable in the airline industry: Virgin America won the hearts and fierce loyalty of consumers around the country. People love this airline.
While some passengers may prefer flying Alaska over AA, Delta and United, the airline is clearly no Virgin America. Hopefully, Alaska will begin incorporating some Virgin elements within its own fleet, rather than downgrading the Virgin experience to match its own.
He does end his note with a bit of optimism though:
Our Virgin airline has much more to do, more places to go, and more friends to make along the way. The important thing now is to ensure that once Alaska witnesses first-hand the power of the brand and the love of Virgin America customers for our product and guest experience, they too will be converts and the US traveling public will continue to benefit from all that we have started.
Richard Branson is clearly invested in, well, his investments. As he told us during a Virgin America event just a few weeks ago, he never misses an inaugural flight. For a very busy founder of an international conglomerate, that’s mighty impressive. Hopefully that passion will continue as long as the Virgin America brand exists.
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