RSS Feed

Related Articles

Related Categories

Virgin Atlantic plans to fly 700,000 between London and Scotland

12th September 2012 Print

Virgin Atlantic has announced the second stage in its plans to start short-haul services, by confirming it has bid to fly multiple daily flights between London Heathrow and Scotland.

Sir Richard Branson’s airline is developing a network operation to start in March 2013 and has confirmed that its next regional focus is on Edinburgh and Aberdeen. It aims to uplift passenger numbers by restoring competition that was lost on routes between these airports and London Heathrow following IAG’s takeover of bmi.

Now that BA is the monopoly operator on these routes, it is reducing the total number of daily flights between Aberdeen and Heathrow by nearly one third, and by a quarter between Edinburgh and Heathrow. With history showing that fares could be expected to increase by as much as a third after an operator becomes the sole carrier on a route, Virgin Atlantic aims to reinstate consumer choice by flying up to 700,000 passengers a year from Scotland to London.

The announcement comes as Virgin Atlantic’s Chief Executive Steve Ridgway visits Edinburgh to meet with First Minister Alex Salmond and other political party leaders to outline the airline’s plans for extending its Scottish operation. Virgin Atlantic already operates seasonally between Glasgow and Orlando.

Speaking ahead of those meetings, Steve Ridgway said: “Virgin Atlantic is totally committed to providing a competitive price and choice for passengers flying from Scotland to Heathrow and beyond.

“At least 1.8 million Scottish passengers, equivalent to a third of the population, have been left without a choice on these routes since IAG’s takeover of bmi. As a monopoly operator, BA has the opportunity, the incentive and the means to increase fares and reduce the number of flights available.

“As we shook up the status-quo in long haul travel nearly 30 years ago, we’re now doing all we can to have the same decisive impact on the short haul market. Our aim is to reach a significant new base of both direct and connecting passengers, and in doing so we intend to bring our award-winning service, competitive prices and greater choice to the Scottish travelling public.”

Virgin Atlantic confirmed it has submitted an application to operate the twelve daily slot-pairs at Heathrow which IAG must surrender following its takeover of bmi earlier this year which left BA as the only operator on these routes. Within its plans Virgin has proposed to offer multiple flights a day to both Edinburgh and Aberdeen using Airbus narrow bodied aircraft.

Flights to and from Scotland would allow Virgin Atlantic to re-inject competition for passengers, with a strong brand offer for both long haul and short haul passengers, 750,000 of whom connect onwards at Heathrow each year. Popular onward destinations for Scottish passengers include New York, Vancouver, Sydney and Mumbai.

The move by Virgin Atlantic is the latest step as the airline looks to develop its global connectivity. This year has seen new services launched to Vancouver and Cancun, and last month it announced a new three times daily service to Manchester, which joins a new route to Mumbai and a sixth daily flight to New York; both starting in October this year.

A decision on Virgin Atlantic’s bid for the remedy routes is expected from the European Commission by the end of the year.