Virgin unveils second stage of domestic routes

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Published: September 15, 2012

Virgin Atlantic A340. By Rob Finlayson

Virgin Atlantic (VS) has unveiled plans for a series of London to Scotland routes as it seeks to extend UK domestic service.

The carrier announced last month it will launch a 3X-daily London Heathrow (LHR)-Manchester (MAN) service in March 2013 ( ATW Daily News, Aug. 20 ).

Unlike the MAN service, which will use existing VS slots, the proposed services—from LHR to Edinburgh (EDI) and Aberdeen (ABZ)—will depend on the European Commission’s (EC) decision on which airline will receive the 12 remedy slot pairs that British Airways (BA) had to surrender after BA parent International Airlines Group purchased British Midland International ( ATW Daily News, April 23 ). VS has put in a bid for all the slots. The EC decision is expected later this year.

A VS spokesman told ATW that, if the bid is successful, it will allocate seven of the slot pairs to the two destinations, but it has not yet decided how to split the seven between EDI and ABZ.

VS claims the number of LHR-EDI flights will drop by around one-quarter and LHR-ABZ flights will drop by about one-third, due to the BA acquisition, which left BA as the sole operator on the routes.

VS said it would restore competition on the routes and believes it can fly up to 700,000 passengers annually on them.

“Our aim is to reach a significant new base of both direct and connecting passengers,” VS CEO Steve Ridgway said. VS hopes to use the services, at least partially, as feeders for its long-haul services.

It will wet lease three Airbus A319s for the proposed domestic services.

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