Branson to keep bargain-basement fares

Sir Richard Branson is planning the expansion of Virgin Blue in Australia and has vowed to keep the fledgling airline's bargain-basement fares.

Branson says that he's not only intending to keep the low fares of the past two years but “hopefully, for the next ten years”. His 16 planes and 1,500 staff are all that stand between Qantas and a monopoly of the domestic aviation market after the collapse of Tesna's bid for Ansett.

Branson intends to employ up to 1,000 ex-Ansett staff as he expects to take Virgin Blue's market share from its current 14 per cent to 25 per cent over the next 18 months. He also says he may start up another budget airline in Australia, as he wants to compete with Qantas on as many domestic routes as possible, with smaller planes to “fill in the gaps”.

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