by David Shankbone

Sir Richard Branson, founder & chairman of Virgin Group, discusses Virgin Group’s mobile expansion and his interest in space tourism and the war on drugs

Video and COMPUTER generated transcript below:

virgin america is spreading its wings today welcoming its firstflight into philadelphia. joining us right now to talk about this latest expansion and other virgin business as well is sir richard branson founder and an of virgin media. thank you for joining us. talk to us about philadelphia. why the expansion here andwhat’s happening? well, we set up virgin america to give competition and increase the quality of air travel for poor americans who i think have suffered somewhat for many, many years domestically and it’s doing great. we’re opening a lot of new routes around america. philadelphia has almost nocompetition between philadelphia and los angeles and philadelphia and san francisco. and in time we’ll be flying toother places out of philadelphia so we thought we would come and give the one airline that does fly a bit of a run for theirmoney and i think it will go great. air out of the hub there in philadelphia? yes. doesn’t have any plugs for plugging in your equipment, no entertainment system. you know, anyway i can carry on. but with virgin america we have the kind of airline that people from philadelphia and the west coast enjoy to fly and i think we’ll do well on this route. richard, the area of air travel in the united states seems over the last few years to have been getting to the point where you get nickelled and dimed for everything. there was a story about an airline charging people $35 if they want to bring any c on luggage with them to store inthe overhead compartments. what’s virgin’s thought? i think we agree with you. virgin likes to come in to businesses where people are being nickelled and dimed and where the quality of services is pretty dire, and for some reason or other what’s happened in america is you got these enormous big airlines that are getting bigger and b and, now, last thing they seem tothink about is quality of service whereas in every other industry in america, you know, hotels, restaurants, clubs, et cetera, quality is of paramount importance. on a competitive basis, they play into our hands the more they make decisions like thiswhich the public dislike. richard, consolidation. is it a good thing or a bad thing? we’ve seen as you just referenced a lot of it here in the u.s. it’s made the airlines stronger but prices have also gone up. you’ve made your name going up against a virtual monolie that was british a. consolidation is not good for the consumer and it’s incredible that the competition authoritieskeep allowing it to happen. i mean in britain in their wisdom they just allowed british airways to take over british midland the competition authors. it sound like you’re saying that sarcastically. you wonder how they got the title competition authority. competition authority should be telling airlines to compete and if you don’t compete successfully to go away so you can make room for new up and coming companies with better ideas. you shouldn’t just be able to be propped up by, you know, getting together with an even bigger carrier and then being able to monopolize and put fares up because you have no competition. it’s madness in what’s happening in the airline industry in the last five years. and then you also have thisbizarre thing in america where, you know, if a company goes bust well it doesn’t go bust it goes into chapter 11. it screws its competitors by screwing its creditors, comes back out of chapter 11 and then most likely goes back into chapter 11 again few years later. continental has been in chaer 11 four or five times. there’s not one carrier in america that we competed withover the last 25 years that hasn’t gone bust, at least once.nerally four or five times. but some people would argue that’s an argument that there’s been over capacity. is that not the case?well, you know, if it’s over capacity, that’s the airline’s fault. i mean it would be much better — if a tree dies, you know, an old oak tree dies it should be dead and then let new sprouts come up. and with virgin america we have real problems getting slots at some of the main airports because you got these incumbentcarriers who offer next nothing to the traveling public except high fares and pretty awful airlines blocking our way. so, you know, i do think there’s an argument to be said, let some of these big carriers go to the wolves. we take this show on the road. i don’t know about orbit. we may let ashton kutcher start first. you never spoke about 90 acres. how far is that from where we are here. probably 45 minutes, and that’s quite a story that we can tell out there. don’t you think? sorry, i’m not followi yourquestion. 90 acres is close by. the property that you own out infar hills with all the natural food. we want to take the show on the road but not necessarily — we want to wait on the orbit,taking the show up there. let kutcher try that. can we do it from 90 acre? that would be lovely. we would love to have you havethe show there. it’s an amazing — you don’t see business andenvironmentally-friendly things get together very much and it’s a novel concept for how to do it, i think. it’s a delightful place. and all the food that is cooked the is grown on the property. and anyway come and bring your show there. that would being a great. all right. we also want — your mobile operations are notifying chile. you want to talk about that as well? i’m off to south america next week, actually for two reasons, one we’re launching a mobile phone company down there. we’ll be launching it in a lot of south american countries. and i think virgin as a group has been slow to getting into south america but we’re going make up for that now. and i’ve also a member of the global drug commission and there’s a big meeting takingplace next week where south american government is going totry to decide whether to decriminalize drugs and in effect stand up to the american government and to be honest, you know, the global drug commission, hopefully they will decriminalize drugs because we think the war on drugs has failed and doing damage to south americans and irreparable damage to hundreds of thousands of people over the world. we’ll be doing a bit of a push on that as well. richard it’s barry stearn, how are you i’m doing very well. you made a push or announced several push into the hotel industry. how is that goi for virgin hotels?going very well. we have our first hotel opening in chicago next year. and we very nearly got a property in new york and in miami and, you know, so virgin flies with its various airlines