Virgin Atlantic is moving in on British Airways who dominates London Heathrow Airport. The airline has plans to dramatically increase its long-haul route network and launch a new network of domestic and European routes when the airport expands.
A new route map illustrates how Virgin Atlantic’s flying program could grow to deliver significant increase in choice for customers, but only if the UK government reforms the way new Heathrow slots are allocated.
The plans include a huge increase of Virgin Atlantic’s current network, including flights to destinations including Kolkata, Jakarta, and Panama City, where passengers aren’t currently able to fly non-stop.
IAG, owners of British Airways, currently controls more than half of the total capacity at Heathrow. A report published last week found that one in four passengers flying from the airport, 18.5 million people, have no choice but to book with that airline group. According to the report, these passengers may be paying up to 10 per cent more in air fares as a result.
In total, Virgin Atlantic plans to serve 103 domestic, European, and long-haul destinations, up from just 19 long haul destinations in 2020. Of the 84 new destinations planned, 12 are domestic for Virgin including Belfast, Glasgow, and Manchester; 37 are European including Barcelona, Dublin, and Madrid, and 35 are global including Buenos Aires, Tokyo, and Santiago.
“Heathrow has been dominated by one airline group for far too long. The third runway is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to change the status quo and create a second flag carrier. This would lower fares and give real choice to passengers, as well giving Britain a real opportunity to boost its trade and investment links around the world. Changing the way take-off and landing slots are allocated for this unique and vital increase in capacity at the nation’s hub airport will create the right conditions for competition and innovation to thrive,” says Shai Weiss, CEO of Virgin Atlantic.
This has been a year of significant growth for Virgin Atlantic, with three new routes from Heathrow: Tel Aviv, Mumbai, and Sao Paulo. It also formed part of the Connect Airways consortium that recently acquired Flybe and will launch its expanded joint venture with Air France, KLM, and Delta by the end of the year.