Virgin Atlantic has said that it is planning to increase its flights at London Heathrow in an effort to challenge the dominance of IAG, which owns British Airways, at the airport.
The move is also in line with the government’s Aviation Strategy green paper which seeks to facilitate competition between airlines through the allocation of slots at Heathrow. This will offer customers more choice and lower fares, as well as enhanced domestic connectivity and connectivity to international destinations.
Currently IAG holds more than 55 per cent of all take-off and landing slots at Heathrow.
Virgin Atlantic said that it will compete on 26 routes where there is an IAG monopoly, including Accra in Ghana, Austin in the USA and Bogota in Colombia. The airline will increase its long haul route network and launch a new inclusive network of domestic and European routes when the airport expands. The plans include a significant increase of Virgin Atlantic’s current network, including flights to exciting destinations such as Kolkata, Jakarta and Panama City, where passengers are unable to fly non-stop currently.
In total, Virgin Atlantic plans to serve 103 domestic, European and long haul destinations – up from just 19 long haul destinations in 2020. Of the 84 new destinations planned, 12 are domestic – including Belfast, Glasgow and Manchester, 37 are European – including Barcelona, Dublin and Madrid, and 35 are global – including Buenos Aires, Tokyo and Santiago.
‘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,’ Shai Weiss, CEO of Virgin Atlantic, said. ‘Britain, and those who travel to it, deserve better than this. Air passengers need a choice and Virgin Atlantic is ready to deliver when Heathrow expands.
‘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. This would lower fares and give real choice to passengers, as well giving Britain a real opportunity to boost its trade and investment links around the world. Changing the way take-off and landing slots are allocated for this unique and vital increase in capacity at the nation’s hub airport will create the right conditions for competition and innovation to thrive.’