Open Letter To Geoff Dixon From Richard Branson

24th July 2003

Sir Richard Branson

24 July 2003


Dear Geoff,

I was amused to read Qantas’s completely dismissive comments about Virgin Atlantic’s chances of getting permission to fly to Australia. It would be prudent for you to remind yourself of your and James Strong’s equally dismissive comments about Virgin Blue’s chances of entering the Australian market only three years ago.

Here goes! This is the gist of what you said:

“Virgin Blue is a lot of media hype.”

“This market is not big enough to sustain Virgin Blue.”

“Virgin Blue doesn’t have deep enough pockets to cope.”

“Qantas will employ any option to see off this interloper.”

“They’ll be unlikely to survive a year.”

“Claims by Richard Branson that domestic fares are high are a misnomer!” (my exclamation mark)
Here is what James Strong, your former C.E.O, said about Virgin Blue and myself:

“If you listen to most of the pretenders there is a distinct air that they are making it up as they go along. In terms of real plans and real commitment you could fire a shot gun up the main street and not hit anybody.”

Yet three years later you are telling your staff that this same airline, “that was making it up as it went along” and that now has 30% of the market could, “Drive Qantas out of business!” We also find it flattering, if a little silly, that three years on you now have spies hiding behind pot plants in the Virgin terminal trying to work out why we are so successful.

Even if some of your comments don’t suggest it, your actions indicate you are taking us seriously. But let’s not take ourselves too seriously. I would like to propose a friendly challenge!

If Virgin Atlantic fails to fly to Australia (within 18 months, say) I’d be prepared to suffer the indignity of donning one of your stewardesses brand new designer outfits and will work your flight from London to Australia serving your customers throughout.

However, if Virgin Atlantic does fly to Australia you would do so instead. On our inaugural flight from London to Australia you would wear one of our beautiful red Virgin Stewardesses uniforms and serve our inaugural guests all the way to Australia. Oh and in case you were wondering, we’re not hung up on flying through Hong Kong. You might end up doing your days work experience through Singapore, Thailand or Malaysia instead.

This is the challenge. If you believe in what Qantas said to the press there can’t be any risk for you. We expect your response within one week. Our inaugural flights are great fun and I look forward to welcoming you on board personally. Oh and by the way my preferred drink is ………..!

Kind regards,


p.s. I enclose a picture to give you an idea of what you might look like.

Dixon wasn't particularly impressed with Branson's offer.

"We are running an airline not a circus," Dixon said through a Qantas spokeswoman.


Richard Branson