Two Virgin Group airline brands, Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Australia, have entered some turbulent air during the COVID-19 crisis. The Australian branch has entered administration in order to cut its fat and return to profitability. Virgin Atlantic was rumoured to be put on sale by Richard Branson after the British government refused to provide it a $621 million (£500 million) loan. Branson‘s spokesperson denied the rumour of a happening sale. However, the investment bank Houlihan Lokey was hired to find a fresh round of investment into the Britain-based airline.

The two airlines were and still are held to a high standard and amongst the most well-known airline brands in the world. Starting from its inception in 1984, Virgin Atlantic’s communication was cheeky, to say the least. The company was not afraid to take the mick out of its competitors, mainly British Airways. The trend has stayed the same until recently, when Virgin Atlantic launched the Two Flag Carriers initiative in order to secure its place in the sometime-in-the-future expanded Heathrow Airport (LHR).

When Virgin Blue, the former name of Virgin Australia, was launched in 2000, Richard Branson stated that domestic flight prices in Australia were “far too high, with far too many restrictions and it's about time Australians can fly without having to spend their entire pay packet.”

The then-CEO of the airline Brett Godfrey mocked the competition, which “already dropped their fares in anticipation of our arrival.”

“We've actually managed to lower the cost of flying without even having a plane in the air,” Godfrey added.

Both Virgin (VAH) airlines always had the cojones to talk the talk. But has the coronavirus highlighted the fact that they can’t walk the walk that the brands have talked about?

Marketing giants

Virgin Atlantic and, with Richard Branson behind it, are one of the most outspoken companies marketing-wise. While executives like Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary can call their rivals crack cocaine junkies, Virgin’s (VAH) representatives are a bit tamer, yet a lot cheekier. For example, in 2016, when the London Eye, which was sponsored by British Airways, had a technical problem and they could not erect it, Branson had a field day. He scrambled a blimp with the text “BA can’t get it up!!“ and flew it near the London Eye.

Ryanair's chief executive Michael O'Leary publicly blasted Lufthansa and Virgin Atlantic over their attempts to claim more state aid.

Virgin Atlantic tells the story better than anyone could:

“Richard Branson, our enthusiastic chairman, did anything to get attention for his businesses, including hot air ballooning, abseiling down Manhattan high rises or kissing Spice Girls. The more he got in the news for his adventures, the more Virgin Atlantic became renowned as the airline you flew if you wanted an adventure.”