A new airline started by flamboyant British billionaire Richard Branson inaugurated service between Los Angeles and Australia on Friday, is the latest volley in a transpacific fare war that has already cut the price of a round-trip ticket by half.
The first flight of V Australia, carrying about 300 passengers from Sydney, landed at Los Angeles International Airport on Friday morning, greeted on the tarmac by firetrucks with water guns and then at the gate by Disney characters Mickey Mouse and Goofy.
Branson, in a telephone interview after a welcome ceremony at LAX, said he was confident that his new airline could weather the economic turbulence."There are plenty of people who've still got to fly, and the market across the Pacific is still very big," Branson said. "I wouldn't necessarily say every airline in the Pacific will survive, but if you make sure you've got the best carrier flying, the chances are you'll do well." The new airline can "afford to be price competitive," Branson said, because it flies newer planes that are more fuel-efficient and less expensive to maintain than those flown by competitors. The planes also have amenities that include two bars, a restroom for women only and mood lighting.