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Richard Branson's Virgin Trains USA deal dies; Brightline name sticks for California and Florida lines

Aug. 10, 2020
3 min read
Richard Branson's Virgin Trains USA deal dies; Brightline name sticks for California and Florida lines
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Richard Branson's splash and bravado is no match for the economic realities of the coronavirus pandemic. Adding to the list of woes facing airlines Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Australia, his U.S. rail pact appears dead before it even left the station.

On Aug. 7, Brightline Trains notified investors that its rail lines in California and Florida would not be rebranded Virgin Trains USA, after all. The move, announced by the train company in a monthly revenue and ridership report, comes more than two-years after Branson and Brightline officials announced the new pact that would see the Virgin name return to the U.S. domestic market — albeit on rails rather than in the skies.

While Brightline does not say why it is ending the agreement, the Virgin name comes with a hefty price tag. Prior to Alaska Airlines take over of Virgin America in 2016, the Virgin-branded airline paid as much as $7.7 million in licensing fees to Branson's Virgin Group annually.

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Brightline operates a 70-mile intercity rail line between Miami and West Palm Beach in South Florida. A 140-mile extension to Orlando International Airport (MCO) is under construction while design and engineering work is underway for new stations in Aventura and Boca Raton.

Planning work on a proposed station on Disney property west of the Orlando airport is underway. If that is built, Brightline would provide visitors to Disney with a one-seat train ride between the theme parks and both the Orlando airport and destinations in South Florida — including a planned station at the PortMiami cruise ship terminal.

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Brightline is also discussing a possible extension to Tampa from the proposed Disney station. It is also considering a station at the Fort Lauderdale (FLL) airport, which is adjacent to the route of its trains.

Related: Brightline breaks ground on new line in Florida

Beyond its Florida line, Brightline hopes to break ground on a new 170-mile high-speed rail line between Las Vegas and Victorville in Southern California this fall.

The decision to end ties with Branson's Virgin Group does not affect Brightline's rail expansion projects. Virgin will have no affiliation or equity investment in the train company following their separation.

Brightline passenger service has been suspended since March due to COVID-19. The firm continues to "monitor the situation and evaluate an appropriate time" to resume regular service.

Related: Virgin Trains USA Plans to Connect Miami and Orlando, and Extend to Disney World

Featured image by Getty Images

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Apply for American Express® Gold Card
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Best for the well-traveled foodie
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
3XEarn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

    60,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $250
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

There's a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It's been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you're hitting the skies soon, you'll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there's no reason that the foodie shouldn't add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

Pros

  • 4x on dining at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x)
  • 3x on flights booked directly with the airline or with Amex Travel
  • Welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first six months

Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees