After 27 years with American Airlines, Craig Keeger joined Virgin Atlantic Airways as CEO in February 2013.
At Virgin Atlantic, Kreeger took control of a 30-year-old airline with a great reputation for style and service, but it was struggling financially.
In 2012, Delta airlines purchased 49% of the Sir Richard Branson-owned airline for $US360 million.
In addition to equity, Virgin and Delta have entered into a joint venture whereby the two airlines share routes that provide access to new markets.
Virgin Atlantic’s chief executive recently dropped by Business Insider’s headquarters in New York City to chat.
On the biggest difference between working for Virgin and American:
“I get to wear jeans to work now … I don’t want to demean my time at American, because I genuinely enjoyed it. But we have a family-style atmosphere at Virgin Atlantic that simply isn’t possible with a large operation like American.”
On Virgin Atlantic’s joint venture with Delta:
When asked to assess the state of the joint venture, Kreeger told Business Insider that both airlines seem to be successfully integrating the new JV routes. According to Kreeger, Virgin Atlantic flies more than 250,000 passengers a year who connect from Delta flights.
The tie-up has allowed both Delta and Virgin to bolster their transatlantic routes, which account for 70% Virgin Atlantic’s business, Kreeger says.
On Branson’s involvement in the operations of the airline:
“Richard is definitely still around. I still get notes from him sometimes, and they’re usually about very specific details.”
On what the airline looks for in its flight attendants.
According to Kreeger, contrary to popular belief, the most important element the airline looks for in its cabin crew is an outgoing personality, which allows the flight attendant to engage with and serve the customer successfully.
On which parts of the world Virgin Atlantic will expand to next.
“We are happy where we are right now. Our expansion will come in the form of access to new markets from our JV with Delta.”
On whether the Airbus A380 mega-plane is a success.
“Based on what I saw when the Airbus A380 was conceived, it is an unqualified success. I couldn’t imagine that this many airlines can find this many routes where the aircraft could be as successful as it is now.”
On why Virgin Atlantic isn’t flying the A380.
The airline holds six options for brand-new A380s. According to Kreeger, Virgin will gladly take delivery of the six jets, if at some point they become economically reasonable for the airline.
But if Virgin Atlantic takes one jet, if must take all six, Kreeger said. Because of the cost and complication of logistics and trainings, a fleet of fewer than six aircraft makes little sense for the airline.