Virgin Atlantic "fully cooperating" in BA investigation
Virgin Atlantic chief executive Steve Ridgeway has confirmed that his company is "fully cooperating" with an investigation by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) into cartel activity on the part of rival airline British Airways (BA).
Speaking on the BBC's Breakfast programme this morning, Mr Ridgeway sought to downplay claims made by a BBC reporter last week that it had been Virgin Atlantic which had alerted industry regulators to BA's alleged malpractice.
"All I can say is that the OFT are investigating passenger fuel surcharges," Mr Ridgeway said.
"That investigation is taking pace under the new Enterprise Act. We are fully cooperating with the authorities, we are assisting them, I suspect this will go on a long time and that is really all I am at liberty to say at the moment." Robert Peston of the BBC, who has not revealed his sources, claimed on Friday that a BA executive informed Virgin Atlantic of plans to raise its fuel surcharge last year, an activity illegal under competition law in both the US and UK.
But Mr Ridgeway dismissed claims that the fuel surcharge furore is the latest in a long-running conflict between the two companies, saying that "we are always bickering and we are super competitors, we have been for over 20 years now and that will continue".
Virgin's owner, Richard Branson, has a long history of acrimony with BA, stretching as far back as 1992, when he won an infamous "dirty tricks" libel case against the airline.
Despite high energy prices and a competitive market, Virgin Atlantic managed to achieve pre-tax profits of £41.6 million in 2005-06, it announced today.
Having carried 4.9 million passengers in the last year, employees of the airline will receive a bonus equivalent to a fortnight's pay.