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Virgin Atlantic relaunches Web site

In an email to online customers, the airline announces that its site now provides online bookings and will soon launch city guides.

Ramping up its e-commerce efforts, Virgin Atlantic Airways has quietly relaunched its Web site to provide online bookings, the unveiling of a new look to its aircraft, and starting next month, city guides.

"You're the first to know" of the new site, the airline said in an email to online customers today. The new site is part of entrepreneur Richard Branson's plans to bolster e-commerce at his business empire. For example, Virgin Megastores recently launched an online site to buy music.

All told, privately held Virgin Group has said it will expand its retailing business on the Internet with about an $81 million cash infusion this year. The company has said that "virtually every part" of its business will have an e-commerce element by year's end.

Competition will be intense, however, both in Europe and the United States. Not only music retailers, but airlines increasingly are turning to the Web to generate business.

"Book a ticket any time of the night or day, it's so easy," the email reads. "Just follow a few simple online steps and soon that ticket to ride will be right by your side."

It adds: "In our Join In section, which goes live in early July, we've teamed up with Time Out to bring you the latest and best information, on virtually all our destinations. From shopping to eating out, from the best places to sleep to the hottest nightlife, it's all here."