LONDON – Virgin Atlantic has unveiled plans which could see it launch up to 84 brand new routes from London Heathrow.
The airline has come out against the dominance of the likes of the International Airlines Group’s British Airways and the number of slots it currently holds at the airport.
If slot preference is handed out more equally, especially after the third runway has been built, then Virgin’s global route network could rise by a staggering 400%.
According to UK newspaper The Guardian, the airline said that it would offer more choice and lower fares for those flying out of London’s largest airport.
Shai Weiss, the CEO emphasised the point of having effective competition out of an airport like London Heathrow.
“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.
“Britain, and those who travel to it, deserve better than this. Heathrow has been dominated by one airline group for far too long.”
“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.”
Virgin backs the lower fare argument by stating that one in four passengers can only fly with IAG and would pay around 10% more in fares as a result.
Atlantic only operates to 19 long-haul destinations from Heathrow, meaning that its proposed view of slot allocation would see 103 airports served, with some being European and domestic routes, dubbing it more as a “second flag-carrier” of the UK.
UK & Europe Grows…
The domestic takings, as pictured, would be very substantial, including relaunching more UK-based routes, similar to what it did under the famous Little Red brand it ran for a short while.
Through the acquisition of Flybe, this would be of the understanding that operations be implemented together to streamline connectivity in and out of Heathrow.
In the UK alone, it would entail destinations that British Airways itself thrive in such as Manchester, Belfast City, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Inverness and more.
Services to Exeter, Newquay, Guernsey, Jersey and Liverpool would be operations streamlined from the newly acquired regional element too.
Its European aims seem very British Airways-inspired as well, heading to the more mainstream destinations such as Paris, Madrid, Lisbon, Rome, Athens and more.
The Bigger, Global Picture…
On the more global front, the airline would want to expand into Australia more considerably, to Sydney and Auckland and implement the connectivity model with sister carrier Virgin Australia.
Asia would also be witness to extensive expansion, with flights to Beijing, Seoul, Tokyo Haneda, Kolkata, Bangalore, Karachi, Singapore and Jakarta also on the cards, with many more labelled.
Once the expansion of the third runway is complete, Africa would also see a number of new services under Virgin to the likes of Accra, Addis Ababa, Nairobi and Cape Town.
North America, even however extensive it is already for Atlantic, would experience a boost in new routes, with Calgary, Vancouver, Toronto, Chicago, Denver, San Diego, Austin and Raleigh Durham being on the stepping stone aims for the airline.
Moving to South America, this region would also see better connectivity, with routes to Mexico City, Panama City, Bogota, Lima, Fortaleza, Santiago and Buenos Aires also being proposed.
A Mixed Bag of Reactions…
With these route additions, it would mean that by 2026, Virgin Atlantic would compete with IAG on 26 of the 77 routes currently operated by the conglomerate from Heathrow alone.
IAG has obviously come out against this, with a spokesperson saying that “the facts speak for themselves”.
“The airline has failed to create more competition at the airport – it closed Little Red on domestic routes, pulled off long-haul routes and rents out the slots it owns to other airlines to fly”, it added.
Heathrow Airport came out towards the side of Virgin who, with plans for the future starting to take place, is embracing this competitive push from the airline.
“One of the main benefits of expanding Heathrow is creating the capacity that will unlock competition among airlines, increasing choice and lowering airfares for passengers,” a spokesperson said.
Putting Up The Expanding Fight…
It remains clear that even though we won’t see a third runway at Heathrow until the second half of the next decade, Virgin has placed its foot firmly on the ground on what it wants out of this expansion.
Through siding with the consumer on expansion, the aim that Virgin wants to achieve is that Heathrow will hand slots on a more equal side, and not on the basis of who pays, wins.
The airline also remains confident, even on the geopolitical side for European expansion with BREXIT talks between the UK Government and the European Union not really being that positive, and edging to a more no-deal-based approach.
This means that it will come of no doubt that as construction begins, develops and comes to an end, Virgin will be in very aggressive talks to ensure that IAG’s British Airways do not assert its dominance in what will be a new and growing step for Heathrow Airport and also the wider world.