This comes after his initial efforts to look at the figures failed. Branson is clearly interested in taking over the operation of Concorde from British Airways. However, the entrepreneur appears determined to continue his efforts to explore business opportunities for the aircraft, even though British Airways seems resolved to prevent access to its accounts.
During an interview at the Institute of Directors annual conference last week, Branson explained that Virgin wanted to look at Concorde’s books ‘to see if we can do better’ with a view to taking it over.
British Airways has so far refused to let Virgin see Concorde’s figures. Branson said: ‘Concorde is a great invention and it shouldn’t be put in the museum 15 years before its time.’
He added that although BA has the right to decide not to continue to fly it commercially, if another British company wanted to have a look at the figures to see whether it could make a profit using the aircraft, that company should be allowed to do so. ‘British Airways is saying it will not show us the figures, so we are asking the government to intervene to let us see them. It is possible that, having seen the figures, we too will find we cannot make them stack up,’ said Branson.
Concorde has been very expensive for BA to run, but there is much public disappointment that the airliner, which is a technological icon, is to be taken out of service.
Even if Branson does gain access to the accounts they may tell him little about the current costs of running the supersonic jet.
According to BA, it provided audited, detailed accounts under an agreement with the government only until 1984, when the procedure was ended following a final payment by BA of £16.5m for spares.
Lord Marshall, chairman of BA, said: ‘Since then, there has been no current statement on the results of the Concorde operations to which Sir Richard refers.’ BA says it paid the manufacturers £155m for the plane but invested, over the course of the following 27 years, more than £1bn.
‘BA carried out an in-depth review of Concorde operations with the manufacturers. Regrettably, this established there was no realistic prospect for the operation of Concorde services beyond October 2003 whether by us or any other operator.’
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