Virgin Says It Has Kept BA Defectors

After troubles in March at British Airways' new Heathrow terminal, Virgin Atlantic claims that travelers who switched airlines have stayed

Another front in the long-running battle between Virgin Atlantic and British Airways is set be opened by Sir Richard Branson's group, which claims that it has kept the passengers that deserted BA at the height of the Terminal 5 fiasco in March.

Virgin Atlantic will publish its results tomorrow, in which it will claim the flyers it attracted from BA in the days following the disastrous opening of BA's new terminal at Heathrow have stayed with the group, rather than move back to the UK flag carrier. As a private company, Virgin is not bound by the same strict reporting standards that apply to listed groups, including BA.

A spokesman for BA argued that Virgin has "no evidence" to back the claim and that Terminal 5 now processes 65,000 passengers each day, a figure that will rise when the remaining long-haul flights move over from Terminal 4. The airline says the number is up from the 40,000 a day who used the new terminal in April.

In a bid to win back customers, BA has recently embarked on a marketing campaign inviting passengers to visit a website that gives statistics relating to the previous day's activity at Terminal 5.

The row comes after Sir Richard Branson claimed BA's planned alliances with Spain's Iberia and American Airlines would create a "monster monopoly". The BA spokesman said Sir Richard has been using the same arguments for a decade, during which time the airline industry has changed.

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