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Monday, March 1, 1999 Published at 09:19 GMT

Business: The Company File

Virgin to create 2,000 jobs

Revamped planes will be unveiled in September

Virgin Atlantic is set to create 2,000 jobs as it beefs up new airline routes.

The BBC's Diarmaid Fleming reports on the distinctively British flavour to Virgin
The Virgin recruits will increase the airline's total staff to 8,500 and will be used on its Shanghai route and on new routes to New York and Chicago.

The jobs, expected to be announced on Monday, will be for cabin crew, flight deck and administration staff.

New look for airline

Richard Branson is also planning a complete rebranding of the airline.

The entrepreneur will ditch the red and white livery for a silver airline body emblazoned with the Virgin logo.

[ image: Lady Thatcher hated BA's new ethnic art tail fins]
Lady Thatcher hated BA's new ethnic art tail fins
The new livery will also use the red, white and blue colours of the Union Flag.

The changes are expected to be made on all its aircraft before September.

The redesign will be seen as a side-swipe at British Airways, which ditched the Union Flag for an "ethnic" tail-fin design in a £60m revamp in 1997.

Virgin Chairman Richard Branson discusses the move into telecoms and a change of logo
Mr Branson told BBC Breakfast News: "We always felt that them (British Airways) dumping the Union Jack was a mistake.

"We are also spending tens of millions of pounds on a new look inside the planes."

The large scale revamp will include new sleeper cabins on board, as well as new seating and bar areas.

Lady Thatcher was reported to have been critical of British Airways' ethnic art tailfin designs, saying they had abandoned the attachment to Great Britain.

High-flying confidence

[ image: There is a long standing hostility between British Airways and Virgin]
There is a long standing hostility between British Airways and Virgin
Mr Branson is confident Virgin will be the pre-eminent airline in the near future, with profits exceeding those at British Airways at more than £100m. Virgin Atlantic sales are expected to top £1bn this year.

Hostility between the two companies has been high since the days when Mr Branson first set up the fledgling Virgin in the 1980s.

On Monday, Virgin goes to court to try to stop the BA takeover of Gatwick-based Cityflyer.

The company claims the takeover will give BA an unfair advantage at Gatwick and block Virgin's expansion plans of opening three new destinations a year.

Dialling Virgin

Virgin also plans to take on British Telecom in his latest venture into fixed and mobile telephone networks.

The new venture aims to capitalise on the opening up of the telecommunications industry in the UK.

The company confirmed it had a team that was looking at the market very closely and by the end of the year "should have launched a telecoms business".

A decision on whether to give it the final go-ahead will be made in the next few weeks.

Mr Branson will concentrate on technology that enables users to view television pictures and give access to the Internet via their phone.

He also aims to challenge the existing prices offered by British Telecom and the four main mobile phone companies, Cellnet, Orange, Vodafone and One2One.

There are now 12.5 million mobile phone users in the UK, with 2.5 million new customers buying phones over Christmas. Industry experts predict the market is worth £3bn a year in the UK alone, and is set to double over the next four years.

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