Richard Branson hints at starting a new U.S. airline

In an interview on Bloomberg TV last week, Virgin America founder Sir Richard Branson said he"™s open to the idea of starting a new airline in the U.S., pending the outcome of a dispute with Alaska Airlines over how long it will pay royalties for the Virgin America brand it acquired last year.

Alaska bought Virgin"™s U.S.-based carrier this past December for $2.6 billion, then announced in March that it would be retired by 2019.

The Virgin founder indicated that Alaska Airlines should continue paying royalties "unless we decide to start another airline."

"So, we"™ll see what happens," Branson said in the televised interview. The Virgin founder said he believes he should be paid royalties through 2040.

As the U.S. airline industry grapples with overbooking, fewer flights, and recurring labor issues, a new airline from Virgin would be a welcome addition to the market. Launched in 2007, the design-conscious Virgin America quickly became a preferred carrier for U.S. fliers and was named by readers as the No. 1 domestic airline for Travel + Leisure"™s World Best Awards for nine years in a row…

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