FLYING from Australia to London in under three hours on a planet-friendly plane is the future of aviation for Sir Richard Branson.
The Virgin founder, who is in Australia for a series of motivational lectures, said there was little more airlines could do in-flight to enhance the experience for passengers.
Speaking at Luke Mangan’s Sydney restaurant Mojo – where Virgin Australia flight attendants learn to plate up business class meals – Sir Richard said safety, service and comfort was at an highest high for travellers.
He said the only way up now was to go faster, and have less impact on the environment.
“We do hope to one day fly Australia to London in two to three hours,” said Sir Richard, whose Virgin Galactic is developing aircraft for space flight.
“It will most likely happen in my children’s lifetime but I really like to think it will happen, and I think it will be in quite an environmentally friendly way. That’s going to be an exciting future.”
Already, the manufacture of carbon composite aircraft, like the Boeing 787 and Airbus A350, had helped reduce fuel burn by 25 per cent and allowed airlines to fly more cheaply.
“That will hopefully keep ticket prices down,” Sir Richard said.
“We’re still working on trying to develop fuels that will not damage the environment and if possible fuels that price-wise are competitive with dirty fuels.”
Although faster flights would mean “fewer films”, Sir Richard admitted greater speed was desirable for many passengers, himself included.
“I’d definitely come to Australia more often if I could do it within two to three hours,” he said.
“But flying on planes is not the chore that it used to be.”
Sir Richard said Australian travellers had Virgin to thank for raising standards in the domestic airline industry and forcing Qantas to become more competitive.
He even accused Alan Joyce of trying to drive Virgin Australia into the ground, and almost destroying the Flying Kangaroo in the process.
“They even had to go with a begging bowl to their government having lost hundreds of millions of dollars trying to drive us out of business,” said Sir Richard.
“The main thing for us was to keep the quality up.”
While he is down under, Sir Richard said he had some important business to attend to with Virgin Australia CEO John Borghetti.
“I still want to get red shoes for Virgin Australia staff. I’ve obviously failed on that,” he said.
“The girls on board the flight over were saying, ‘we want our red shoes’. I’ll be pushing John when I see him on the red shoes.”