With groups such as the Rolling Stones and Simple Minds on the Virgin Record label, Sir Richard Branson was running one of the top record companies of the early 1980s. But in 1984 he decided to start an airline, offering a service between London and New York. Three months later the first Virgin Atlantic flight took off. In 1992 Branson was forced to sell Virgin Records to EMI but he ploughed the £600m proceeds back into the airline. In 1999 Singapore Airlines bought 49% of the company for a further £600m. Virgin Atlantic now has a fleet of 26 aircraft serving 22 destinations from Tokyo to Tobago, and has just ordered six new Airbus 380 aircraft. In 2002 the company reported an operating loss of £81m on sales of £1,416m. It recently forecast a return to profit of £10m in its draft accounts to April 2003, but trading conditions remain tough. Branson is reportedly in on-off merger talks with bmi and is campaigning for Virgin Atlantic to be allowed to fly Concorde.
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