File this under “what the …”
It emerged overnight that Virgin Atlantic hopes to add a massive 84 new routes from its London Heathrow hub.
The one caveat of this plan however is that a third runway is built at Heathrow. The airline also hopes that a shakeup of a way that takeoff slots are allocated to airlines. Currently, IAG owns the lions share of slots at Heathrow, with 55%. No other airline owns more than 5% of slots.
Virgin Atlantic CEO, Shai Weiss commented:
“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,” he added in a statement. “This would lower fares and give real choice to passengers.”
I guess you cant argue with that.
Some growth at the airline is a given however. Back in July 2019, their takeover of struggling FlyBe was given the green light. Being a regional carrier, this would give Virgin Atlantic access to the UK Domestic and European market.
Virgin Atlantic doesn’t do short haul!
But they have tried that before… Remember Little Red? I flew them a number of times and on each occasion, the flights were barely half full. The venture lasted barely three years. What’s to say things will be different this time around?
Virgin Atlantic’s area of expertise is long haul. Every time they have tried short haul, it hasn’t lasted more than a few years. Virgin Sun was another project that only stuck around for a couple of years. Probably the most successful of the short haul routes they offered was Athens. This lasted a number of years being initially operated with a single Airbus A320, before being upgraded to a brand new A321. This was one of the first routes the airline canned after 9/11 however and it never returned.
Another major stumbling block with these plans would be their fleet size. They simply do not currently have enough aircraft to operate these new routes. Even at the moment they are struggling with numbers. There is still a Boeing 787 sat outside their hangar at Heathrow minus its engines. And it emerged a few days ago that they would be hanging on to their Airbus A340’s for just a few more weeks.
It’s all well and good for the airline to have these plans for the future, but slow and steady wins the race. At the moment it seems as if they are playing AirwaySim…
The planned new destinations for Virgin Atlantic. Destinations in bold have previously been served by the airline.
- Abu Dhabi
- Addis Ababa
- Buenos Aires
- Cape Town
- Mexico City
- Panama City
- Raleigh Durham
- San Diego
Quite an extensive list then!
Somehow I doubt all of these routes will see the light of day. I’d be surprised if even half of them do. As mentioned up thread though, with the FlyBe takeover, the European routes probably aren’t too wide of the mark. Although maybe not from Heathrow.
IF however, they do all come off, Virgin Atlantic will be a huge thorn in British Airways’ side, which is something that Richard Branson has wanted since day one of the airline.