NY to Tokyo in an Hour? Richard Branson Says It Can Be Done.
"If we get it right, New York to Tokyo could be less than an hour," the Virgin Group founder told CNBC's "Squawk Box" on Tuesday. "You could be traveling at 19,000 miles per hour orbitally."
Branson said he's hoping to bring back supersonic commercial air travel after getting his Virgin Galactic space venture off the ground. "After we've done the space program, we will be producing supersonic planes, which will go far, far, faster than [the] Concorde."
It's been more than a decade since the last commercial flight of the Concorde, which was able to make it from London to New York in three hours. It was retired by British Airways after 27 years in service.
Branson, 63, told CNBC he'd like to bring his brand of futuristic flights to fruition in his lifetime.
Best time ever for airline stocks, Branson says
Meanwhile, he said, it's a great time to invest in the airline industry, but for travelers "the jury is out" on whether that's good news for airfares.
The consolidation among the biggest U.S. airlines in recent years has created stability and profitability in an industry that's struggled for decades.
"Sense has finally prevailed in America. Since we started competing with American carriers 30 years ago, every single one of those carriers have gone bankrupt at least once," said Branson from Dallas—where he's lobbying the city for two newly available gates at Love Field airport for Virgin America.
But when there's less competition, fares go up, Branson added. "And airlines don't feel like they need to spend so much money on quality."
The Dallas gates are up for grabs because the Justice Department made newly expanded American Airlines relinquish them in order to settle antitrust concerns about its merger last year with U.S. Airways.
The department wants Virgin America to get the gates, but Dallas City Manager A.C. Gonzalez favors Southwest, which already dominates at the airport.
The Dallas city council is expected to make a decision Wednesday.
"It should be a slam dunk," said Branson. He said service out of Dallas on his airline would include flights to New York, Los Angeles, Washington, and Chicago.
Given the state of the industry, "it's unlikely you're going to get a new airline in America in the next decade," he predicted. "It's going to be incredibly tough for another 'Virgin America' to emerge in this marketplace."
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