At a press conference in Tel Aviv yesterday, Juha Jarvinen, the European Vice President of Virgin Atlantic told travel weekly:
Manchester is “our second home” and the “Thomas Cook’s demise gives us an opportunity”Juha Jarvinen, European Vice President, Virgin Atlantic
“We are certainly finalising our Thomas Cook actions and we hope to be able to further strengthen our offering for next year [from Manchester].
“We will be offering more flights to certain destinations for next winter and we are definitely exploring new destinations from Manchester.
As no specific destinations were mentioned, I figured I’d share my thoughts on what the future of the airline could be at Manchester. Do bare in mind that like most articles in the comments section of this site, this is entirely my own opinion. As such, all some or more than likely, none of the below may occur.
Of course, none of this will happen overnight. At the current point in time, the airline doesn’t have any spare aircraft to be opening a huge number of routes. But if we put that aside and assume they get a ton of A330’s from their partner Delta as a generous Christmas present this year, where could we see the red tailed planes?
In no particular order:
Expansion of Existing Routes
The most likely scenario is that the airline will expand its current routes. Currently, Boston, Las Vegas and Los Angeles are seasonal routes. These could be introduced year round. In the Travel Weekly article, it has been mentioned that Los Angeles has been very successful for Virgin Atlantic.
Atlanta, Barbados, New York and Orlando are served year round from Manchester.
For the year round routes, perhaps additional daily flights could be offered?
As Los Angeles has proven to be successful for Virgin Atlantic from Manchester, why not add another Californian city? In my opinion, San Francisco is far more tourist friendly than Los Angeles anyway. An additional flight from Manchester to compliment its London flight would work well. In days past, Virgin Atlantic have offered double daily flights to San Francisco from London. So why not send one from Manchester?
Miami was one of the first destinations that Virgin Atlantic flew to from London. Despite going backwards and forwards between Heathrow and Gatwick during the early 2000’s, it has been pretty consistent over the years.
Using the same theory as above, Orlando has been very successful for Virgin Atlantic, no matter which UK airport it has been served from. But you do have to wonder how many people using the Orlando flights actually stay there for the duration of their trip? There’s bound to be more than a few that head South for at least a few days. Or even have Miami as their main destination but its more convenient to use Manchester as their departure point, rather than deal with London in order to catch the direct flight.
Being a hub for Delta, I’d imagine this one would be near the top of the list. Not to mention, Seattle is a great city in itself to visit.
An added bonus of Seattle is that Virgin Atlantic would have the route to themselves. Whilst there are flights from London from both Virgin Atlantic and British Airways, none of the US carriers serve the UK from the airport.
One downside of Seattle is that Virgin Atlantic tried and failed with flights to nearby Vancouver, dropping the route in 2015. Although they haven’t had the best track record in Canada, with their Toronto route lasting just a couple of years.
Maybe Seattle could be more of a success?
A destination Virgin Atlantic served from London for around a decade. However due to a number of flights from both Emirates, British Airways and Royal Brunei (at the time), the huge competition drove them out.
Whilst Emirates do send more than a few A380’s to Manchester every day, the route is far less competitive from the Northern city than compared to the capital.
Could relaunching flights from Manchester to Dubai be a better fit?
The most recent route that has been launched by Virgin Atlantic from London. And by all accounts, the initial flights have been reasonably successful.
Whilst both EasyJet and ElAl serve the Manchester route, Virgin Atlantic could find their way in too. There’s competition out of London on the Tel Aviv route too.
If nothing else, it could prove a handy route for scheduling. As Tel Aviv is reasonably nearby, it would require an aircraft for a lot less time than for example, Los Angeles. So could potentially be used as a filler flight between long haul missions as opposed to having an aircraft sat on the ground for 15 hours or so overnight.
I’ve decided to lump The Caribbean together as one for the purpose of this. Virgin Atlantic fly to multiple destinations in The Caribbean from London Gatwick. But only Barbados has featured on a regular basis from Manchester.
The likes of Antigua, St Lucia, Montego Bay, Tobago etc could no doubt easily be popular destinations from Manchester.
Even if not offered as direct flights from Manchester they could be operated as double drop’s. A number of The Caribbean flights from Gatwick already do this.
Virgin Atlantic have served Shanghai for the last 20 years from London. When the airline was cutting back flights from Hong Kong, dropping Tokyo, Sydney and others, Shanghai stayed strong.
Now the airline has entered into a joint venture with China Eastern, this could be a way for the Chinese carrier to break into the market in the North.
Hainan Airlines flights from Beijing have proven to be extremely popular. Could Virgin Atlantic take advantage of the clear demand and tap into a market that is yet to be served?
Virgin Atlantic previously offered seasonal flights from London to Cape Town. As did the now gone Thomas Cook Airlines. And British Airways still do offer direct flights to the South African city.
But nobody has tried it from Manchester. Is there a reason for this or could Virgin Atlantic forge themselves a nice little earner?
Even Johannesburg is only served from London. So for those wishing to avoid a connection there, the alternative is to take the direct flight to Cape Town and make the connection in South Africa instead.
Yet another destination served from London for 25 years before it was pulled in 2015.
Pretty much since the route was pulled, there have been rumours of the airline re-starting routes there with their more efficient 787 aircraft. But instead of using the inconvenient Narita, it’s been mentioned that Haneda would be the preferred airport this time around.
Why not try re-starting services from Manchester instead?
With the 2020 Olympics taking place in the city, the demand will likely be there, even after the events.
With flights due to start from London to Sao Paulo in 2020, why not offer leisure flights to Rio?
With their new codeshare partnership with local airline GOL, a new route to Rio would provide additional benefits to the partnership.
As it stands, South America isn’t served by any airline from Manchester, so a flight to Rio could prove lucrative. Not only for people heading from Manchester to the beaches, but also for those in South America looking to travel to the North of England.