Commenting on Delta Airlines' acquisition of Singapore Airlines' stake in Virgin Attantic, Walsh, boss of the IAG-owned BA carrier, has declared that Branson's brand will be 'consigned to the history books' within five years.
'I can’t see Delta wanting to operate the Virgin brand because if they do what does that say about the Delta brand?' he told The Telegraph yesterday. 'Delta believe they are the number one airline in the world, so what they would want to do is acquire the slots at Heathrow to enable them to have a strong presence at Heathrow.'
Branson, who is reportedly furious at the slight on his airline, has responded by issuing a public £1m wager that Virgin Atlantic will still be going strong in five years. He issued a public statement, saying: 'Will BA never learn? Let’s see how much they believe this. Let them put their money where their mouth is.'
But, rather than promise to stump up the cash, Walsh has offered an alternative - and unusual wager. 'I don’t think a million pounds would hurt [Branson],' he said. 'I don’t have a million pounds so maybe a bet that would be as painful to him as it might be to me – something like a knee in the groin.'
His comments have reignited the long-standing feud between the IAG chief and Branson. Walsh has previously said of Branson, 'I just don’t see that the guy has anything that stands out in terms of what he has achieved in the industry. I don’t respect him.'
BA staff are unlikely to be pleased at Walsh's counter-offer, however, macho as it is. Branson didn't say he would give the £1m to the IAG boss if he lost the wager; the money was promised to the BA staff and crew. With around 57,000 staff, that adds up to nearly £20 per person.
So, it looks like in this latest bout, the Walsh vs Branson scoreboard stands at 0:1 to Branson.