Having lost partner bmi to British Airways, UK carrier Virgin Atlantic is looking to recover some the domestic feed it uses to fill long-haul flights. Starting in March 2013 the carrier will operate thrice-daily service between London‘s Heathrow airport and Manchester using leased Airbus A319 planes. British Airways currently operates 13 daily flights on the same route.
Virgin Atlantic is hoping to secure some of the coveted take-off and landing slots at Heathrow which British Airways must divest as part of the bmi merger. In the mean time, however, they will use some of their existing slots to handle the scheduled service. This means other routes may be trimmed; the affected flights have not been detailed at this time.
There are approximately 1800 daily passengers in the London – Manchester market and 60% of those continue on to long-haul flights according to Virgin Atlantic CEO Steve Ridgway. With bmi no longer able to help feed traffic into the Virgin Atlantic network it is necessary for the carrier to find another way to get some of those passengers into their long-haul routes. Running their own planes seems to be the way to get it done.
Given the frequent "fun" competition between British Airways and Virgin Atlantic it will be interesting to see what happens in the market as this service is launched. Things could get interesting.
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