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January 11, 1993: Virgin wins battle against British Airways

Britain’s flagship carrier apologises and pays damages to smaller rival over a ‘dirty tricks’ campaign

Image Credit:
Virgin Airways owner Richard Branson leaves the court after winning the case against British Airways. - Gulf News Archives
Gulf News

The expansive British Airways (BA) made a humiliating public climb-down, apologising and paying damages to its smaller rival, Virgin Atlantic Airways, over a “dirty tricks” campaign. Virgin and its owner, Richard Branson (above), were given an “unqualified” public apology by British Airways and received libel damages of £610,000 (Dh3 million), with £500,000 of that going to Branson. BA and its retiring chairman, Lord King of Wartnaby, also face an estimated £3 million bill for legal costs. The BA humiliation comes at a particularly sensitive time for the airline, which is seeking to expand its international role by buying into airlines in France, Australia and the United States. George Carman, acting for Branson and Virgin, told a high court hearing that competition with BA was fierce. George Carman, acting for Branson and Virgin, told a high court hearing that competition with BA was fierce after Virgin began operating some services from Heathrow, in addition to Gatwick, in July 1991. Branson publicly accused British Airways of attempting to undermine his business by cold calling Virgin passengers offering an upgrade if they switched airlines and using private detectives to spy on the Virgin boss’s home life.

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