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My great,great, great grandma Aria was a Tamil from Cuddalore: Virgin Atlantic's Branson

Mumbai, Dec 11 (PTI) Billionaire businessman Richard Branson on Wednesday said lab tests have revealed that a part of his ancestral origins lie in Tamil Nadu's Cuddalore, dating back to 1793.

In honour of the same, Virgin Atlantic, the carrier Branson founded 35 years ago, has decided to place a picture of his great, great, great grandmother Aria, who was an Indian, on their planes connecting Mumbai from London.

'I knew that I had past generations living in India, but haven't realised how strong our connections were. So, it turned out that from 1793, we had four generations living here in Cuddalore and one of my great, great, great grandmothers was an Indian named Aria who was married to one of my great, great, great grandfathers,' Branson told reporters here.

He said a 'saliva test' was done in the labs, which revealed these results.

The maverick billionaire who dabbles in many businesses, including space tourism, said the family had a very grainy picture, and have used the image of Aria as a 'flying icon'.

'Every time I meet an Indian, I say we might be relatives',' he quipped.

The carrier has re-launched a daily service connecting Mumbai with London in October, the third time that it has started the service.

Branson said the route was not profitable earlier and thought it was better to pull out rather than burn millions of pounds by continuing with the route. He also said this is the reason why Virgin Atlantic has continued to thrive in the very difficult aviation market.

A senior company executive said it is confident of the increased connectivity being a success as passenger traffic in the sector has grown 25 percent in the last five years, while seat capacity has gone down by 40 percent, hinting at the opportunity that exists.

The executive said the airline will definitely consider a Manchester-India flight, which was being served by domestic carrier Jet Airways before it went bust in April.

Parallelly, Virgin is also lobbying to expand the capacity at the Heathrow airport, the executive said, adding the company is also looking to partner with a domestic airline to carry international passengers and help fill in the void created by the grounding of Jet Airways, its earlier partner.