Branson Launches Virgin Charter Booking Site

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Sir Richard Branson says he’s married the convenience of travel-booking sites like Expedia and Travelocity with the rating system of eBay and the online booking ease of Priceline to create his latest transportation venture, Virgin Charter. The company will tap into the availability of aircraft from more than 2,500 charter operators in the U.S. to allow potential clients to pick and choose who and what flies them to their destination. Key to the system is the ability of clients to see eBay-style ratings of the service they received from each of the operators. "They (charter operators) will have to get quality right," Branson told Reuters. "They can't just get away with it (bad service) anymore." Branson said he was at least partly inspired to create the business by his “dire” experience on a charter flight in which a glass of water hit him on the head as he napped. However, it also likely has something to do with the rapid growth of private aviation ($30 billion last year) as an alternative to the airline experience and Branson’s desire to recoup part of what he might lose on the other end. He said his service will cut up to 20 percent off the current cost of flying privately because clients will be able to book the flights themselves rather than going through a broker.