"I thought I’d be polite, but I decided not to be."
Tell us how you really feel, Richard Branson.
The Virgin Group founder was a ball of emotion last week when Alaska Airlines announced it would be retiring the Virgin America name in 2019, writing a nostalgic, heartfelt goodbye letter to the airline. But behind all the sweet words, he's angry. And his blunt response about the deal at a press conference on Monday surprised even him.
“I thought I’d be polite, but I decided not to be,” he said, laughing, according to The Seattle Times.
The conference was being held to celebrate Virgin Atlantic's new Seattle-London route. And although Branson seemed thrilled about the expansion, he wasn't in a celebratory mood as he addressed Alaska's latest move.
“When I sat down with Alaska, I genuinely believed they would treasure the brand, treasure the people, treasure the product,” he said. “… And that the last thing they would do would be to rip the heart out of it, which seems like what they are going to do.”
Branson called the decision "baffling" and although Alaska Airlines made it clear it intends to keep some of Virgin America's signature elements, from mood lighting to mileage perks, he's clearly not impressed.
“I just wonder what it was that Alaska bought,” he said. “Why did they bother?”
Branson said Alaska Airlines will be paying to license Virgin America through 2040, even if they don't use the brand. He opposed the acquisition from the start, saying last April that as a non-voting shareholder, there was "sadly nothing [he] could do to stop it."