Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd today announced plans to fly from London Heathrow to Manchester Airport from March 2013 – providing competition to BA’s short haul service. The new route is the airline’s first foray into domestic flying; signalling the start of a new network which will provide regional feed to its long haul service as well as providing choice for important point to point passengers.
Sir Richard Branson’s airline is going to apply for all of the remedy slots being awarded by the European Commission following the IAG takeover of bmi, but is using some of its existing slots to service the Manchester to London route. The airline believes competition on this route has been neglected in the remedy process and aims to provide choice for the 650,000 passengers* who travel between the two cities.
Virgin Atlantic Chief Executive, Steve Ridgway said: “Flying between Heathrow and Manchester is just the start for Virgin Atlantic’s new short haul operation. We have the means to connect thousands of passengers to our long haul network as well as to destinations served by other carriers. Our new service will provide strong competition to omnipresent BA; keep fares low and give consumers a genuine choice of airline to fly to Heathrow and beyond.”
Ken O’Toole, Chief Commercial Officer at Manchester Airports Group (MAG), said: “We are pleased to see Virgin Atlantic increasing their presence in Manchester and to see competition returning on the London route, as that will be to the benefit of passengers flying from our airport. Virgin is already a strong carrier at the airport with long haul routes to Barbados, Orlando and Las Vegas and this move adds to their range of services for the North of England. We aim to support our airlines as they look to grow and we hope the success of Virgin’s domestic services will lead to further expansion at Manchester.”
Manchester is a key regional airport with over 65% of passengers to London connecting onwards to other destinations*, and the majority of these passengers are going to points served by Virgin Atlantic. The airline has sought to increase connectivity across the globe over the past two years – this Manchester route joins a new service to Mumbai and a sixth daily service to New York; both starting in October this year.
“Operating a London to Manchester route will provide an invaluable feed to our existing long haul network for both business and leisure passengers. It is the perfect introduction to short haul flights for Virgin Atlantic – we know that passengers traveling from Manchester connect onto destinations we already serve; including Boston, Cape Town and Hong Kong. We changed the way consumers view long haul travel with our unique approach to flying and we are now in the position to use our strong brand reputation to freshen up and brighten up short haul travel too;” added Ridgway.
The airline will operate three daily flights to Manchester using Airbus A319 aircraft from 31st March 2013. Tickets are available from today at the Virgin Atlantic reservation center on 014612747