LONDON – India continues to be a focus for UK airlines as Virgin Atlantic (VS) this week announces plans to service Mumbai (BOM) and New Delhi (DEL) from Manchester (MAN).

Services to BOM will commence first on December 19 on a thrice-weekly basis before DEL begins on January 5, 2021 on a twice weekly basis.

Virgin Atlantic has ample opportunity to take advantage of this route, especially with 500,000 Indian people in the North of England as well as 16 million living outside of their country.

Photo: Brandon Farris

Excitement for Virgin Atlantic

Commenting on the news was the airline’s Chief Commercial Officer, Juha Jarvinen who expressed delight and excitement over these new routes.

“We’re delighted to launch new flying from our home in the north in Manchester. India boasts the largest foreign-born population in the UK and we’re anticipating that post-Covid-19, the demand to travel home to visit loved ones will increase.”

“Following the relaunch of services from Heathrow to Mumbai and Delhi in September 2020, these new services from Manchester represent our continued investment in India.”

“Both Mumbai and Delhi are popular year-round destinations, and we look forward to welcoming travelers from the North and Midlands on board as demand for leisure and business travel gradually increases to the region.”

Photo: Brandon Farris

Flight Information

Services to BOM will operate on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays using the carrier’s Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner under the flight number VS326/327.

The service will offer 31 seats in Upper Class, followed by 35 in Premium as well as 192 across Economy Delight, Classic, and Light. For the DEL service, however, will run on Tuesdays and Fridays using the same equipment but under the VS324/325 flight numbers.

In total, just under 250,000 people in the catchment area alone will benefit from these services, with the number being based on those that travel to the cities indirectly every year.

Virgin Atlantic will of course be looking to occupy the same level of space as the likes of Jet Airways (9W) who back in 2018 launched services to MAN before withdrawing due to financial turmoil.

Photo: Brandon Farris

Manchester Pushing for Further Connectivity

Andrew Cowan, the Chief Operating Officer for Manchester Airports Group (MAG) and the Chair of the Manchester India Partnership continued this theme of delight.

“Securing direct services to two major Indian cities will unlock a wide range of benefits to the whole of the North.”

“I am sure the routes will prove popular with the more than 500,000 people of Indian origin living across the region, while helping to further strengthen trade and cultural ties in both directions.

 “It is pleasing to see Virgin Atlantic make a further commitment to the North, following the recent announcement of its new service to Pakistan and building on the success of its routes to America and the Caribbean in recent years.”

Photo: Brandon Farris

“This news is testament to the hard work done to establish closer links between the region and India through the Manchester India Partnership, especially in the fields of education, healthcare, tourism, business, and sport.”

“I look forward to launching these new, strategically important routes this winter. Customers can be reassured that both Manchester Airport and Virgin Atlantic have all the measures in place to ensure they are kept safe and secure at all stages of their journey.”

Cowan is referring to VS’ announcements over the last few weeks and months by the carrier, such as the addition of services to Barbados (BGI) starting on October 26 as well as services to Islamabad (ISB) from December 10.

Photo: Brandon Farris

India & Pakistan The Main Focus?

This route announcement does entertain a lot of perspectives made at Airways regarding new route launches to India and Pakistan. Back in September, British Airways (BA) announced it was doubling down in Pakistan with more flights to Lahore (LHE), on top of its Islamabad takings.

This of course is down to the capitalization on Pakistan International Flights (PK) only partially resuming UK flights as well as withdrawing its European staff. With PK being on the back foot, with agencies in the US, UAE, and more banning flights from the airline, it has encouraged if anything, a race to plant a foot on the ground of those countries.

With 9W and Air India (AI) also struggling, it means that sustainable business plans can be placed on top of those struggling carriers, thus taking the competition out of the picture.

Photo: James Field

What’s Next?

Of course, actual passenger numbers overtly depend on demand, especially during the difficult times that the COVID-19 pandemic has provided to the industry.

It will be interesting to see how these flights perform, and whether it can indeed succeed as countries like India are still not allowing international flights into the country. For now, COVID-19 will continue to hold the cards until that much-needed vaccine is found.

Featured Image: Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. Photo Credit: Luca Flores