Virgin Blue is preparing to court Qantas business travelers with the launch of its long-awaited frequent flyer program.
Major shareholder Richard Branson said an announcement would be made soon about a program likely to be linked to other Virgin companies. “The big push is going to be for the business market and we’ve got a frequent flyer program, which will, I think, knock Qantas’s Frequent Flyer program into touch,” he told reporter Steve Creedy in Sydney.
“Qantas’s Frequent Flyer program is not very popular, so I think it’s a very opportune time for us to come in there, and hopefully we can do to the business market what we’ve done to the economy-class market.”
Asked if the program would give free flights for a number of paid journeys, Branson said, “I think it might be a bit more interesting than that but we’ll see. I’ve asked not to be drawn on it today but I’m sure some of the other Virgin companies will also be involved … Virgin Credit Card and Virgin Atlantic.”
Branson rejected suggestions that the just-ended takeover bid for the airline by Chris Corrigan’s Patrick Corp had damaged his relationship with Mr Corrigan: “Categorically no, we’re both big boys.” The entrepreneur said he had at no stage considered selling his stake at the $1.90 bid price and it was unlikely he would have sold at any price.
“I certainly would never, ever want to lose contact with Virgin Blue,” he said. “One thing that we could consider one day may be to switch shares from Virgin Blue into Patrick Corp. but we have no plans to do that.”