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Virgin and IAG bosses lock horns after Walsh makes jibe at Richard Branson

By John Mulgrew

Sir Richard Branson has responded to airline rival Willie Walsh's comments that he doesn't "buy all the bull*****" about the Virgin boss. Willie Walsh, who is chief executive of British Airways parent company IAG, criticised Sir Richard during an interview at the Ulster University Business School last week.

But now Sir Richard has fought back, and says "it is disappointing that the current head of BA, Willie Walsh, is continuing to make childish comments directed at yours truly and others. More than three years ago, he bet me a 'knee in the groin' that Virgin's brand would disappear within five years," he said.

"Since then we have been concentrating on constantly improving Virgin Atlantic's service for our customers, by investing in our people, our close partnership with Delta and by continuing to evolve our brand."

Mr Walsh was not shy about his dislike of fellow airline boss Richard Branson, whom he had "no admiration" for. "I don't buy all the bull***** about him," he said.

Sir Richard responded at the weekend on his blog with: "Now, with his inimitable charm, Willie has stated 'I don't buy all the bull***** about him' referring to me.

"Well, it won't be long before we know who was and who wasn't talking bull***** and we'll see whether he's willing to honour his bet.

"Rather than attempting to deride our rivals, we will continue focusing upon ensuring our customers get the best service and experience in the skies.

"I feel sorry for anybody who revels in negativity. Here's to more positivity, forgiveness, inspiration and success in 2016."

Sir Richard was responding in a blog on the Virgin website to comments made by Willie Walsh in a Belfast Telegraph report last week.

He said that there "are some leaders who strive to inspire their teams; there are other leaders who choose to influence by belittling others. As a leader, it is incredibly important to praise people for doing great things. When people are given encouragement and support, they flourish."

But while Mr Walsh was critical of the Virgin boss, he does admire staunch rival Michael O'Leary, despite the competition with Ryanair.

Asked about fresh competition from rival Ryanair, which is now back in Belfast, he said: "There's always concern when you are competing with Ryanair."

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