Virgin Atlantic (VS/VIR) has said it plans to launch a raft of new routes from London Heathrow Airport (LHR/EGLL) including 12 new domestic routes.
The airlines Chief Executive Shai Weiss unveiled the proposals, which also include 37 new European routes and 35 new global routes, but said that the new routes will depend on the number of slots given to Virgin Atlantic under the Heathrow expansion.
The planned domestic routes include Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Inverness and Glasgow in Scotland along with Exeter, Guernsey, Liverpool, Newcastle, Manchester and Newquay in England; Belfast in Northern Ireland and Jersey in the Channel Islands.
Virgin Atlantic, together with Stobart Group, recently bought struggling regional airline Flybe (BE/BEE) as “Connect Airways Ltd” and Flybe is expected to be rebranded either into a new airline, or as part of Virgin.
It is not yet clear whether the route proposals from Heathrow are connected to the Flybe takeover.
Mr Weiss said “Never has the need for effective competition and choice at Heathrow Airport been more evident than during this summer of disruption, which has brought misery for tens [of] thousands of travellers. and those who travel to it deserve better than this. Air passengers need a choice and Virgin Atlantic is ready to deliver when Heathrow expands.
“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 [as] 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.”
Virgin Atlantic says that it plans to address the urgent need for strong, effective competition at Heathrow Airport, the UK’s only hub airport, and this will reduce the cost of flying from the UK.
Slot allocation at Heathrow Airport is currently being reviewed by the Government after the Aviation Strategy Green Paper set a primary objective for the allocation of additional Heathrow capacity to facilitate effective competition between airlines and in turn giving passengers better value for money.
Virgin previously tried to launch UK domestic services with Virgin Little Red which launched in 2013 serving Aberdeen, Manchester and Edinburgh from Heathrow. The airline ceased operations just 2 years later with slot allocation at Heathrow being cited as one of the reasons for its failure.