Delta, Virgin Atlantic revise Summer 2017 schedule, offer new Portland- London service

Delta Air Lines and Virgin Atlantic have announced changes to their respective summer 2017 schedules to optimise their joint network between the United States and the United Kingdom.

The move seeks to offer customers more travel choices and flexibility. In 2015, the JV connected almost 400,000 customers to over 200 destinations in the U.S., on around 550 routes.

As per the revised plan, Delta will commence a new four times a week service from Portland, Oregon to London Heathrow on May 26, 2017, the first between this U.S. West Coast city and London. 

Beginning March 26, 2017, the US-based airline will add a second Detroit to London Heathrow service, replacing Virgin Atlantic’s daily Detroit to London Heathrow service. The airline will also operate a third Atlanta to London Heathrow service, replacing the second daily service currently operated by Virgin Atlantic, beginning May 25, 2017. Virgin Atlantic will continue to operate one daily Atlanta to London Heathrow service.

Beginning March 26, 2017, Virgin Atlantic will start flying between Seattle and London Heathrow, replacing the daily service currently operated by Delta. In addition, the UK-based airline will launch a daily nonstop service between New York-JFK and Manchester on May 25, 201, replacing the service currently operated by Delta. Delta will resume service for winter 2017.

Erik Varwijk, Executive Vice President, Commercial, Virgin Atlantic said: ‘We are delighted to further optimize our joint services between the U.K. and the U.S. Our most fuel efficient Boeing 787-9 aircraft will add additional capacity to the successful Seattle route, enabling more customers to enjoy the Virgin Atlantic experience on this brand new aircraft. In Manchester, deploying our Airbus A330-300 aircraft on this route will allow us to further meet the growing demand from the Manchester market, now offering a total of six direct flights to the U.S. after the recently announced new services to Boston and San Francisco. The network changes highlight the strength and flexibility of our joint venture, allowing us to make smart decisions that ensure the right aircraft are on the right routes for our customers.’

Commenting on the changes, Dwight James, Delta’s Senior Vice President Trans-Atlantic said: ‘Adding a brand new service to Portland while increasing the scale of Delta’s reach across our Atlanta and Detroit hubs provides a comprehensive network of nonstop and connecting destinations for both Delta and Virgin customers. The flexibility to adjust our operations on routes between the U.K. and the U.S. is a solid reflection of the cohesive strategy we have across the trans-Atlantic. Since 2014, we have been building a partnership that is centered around the needs of our customers while providing network synergies for our airlines.’

With the changes, starting March 26, 2017, the airlines’ joint summer 2017 schedule will feature a total of 42 peak daily nonstop flights between the U.S. and the U.K. Of these, 28 flights will operate between London Heathrow and popular U.S. destinations such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Atlanta and Washington and 14 flights will operate between Manchester, Glasgow, Belfast, London Gatwick and Edinburgh to popular U.S. cities, Delta said in a release.

Virgin Atlantic extends Glasgow-Orlando winter service

Leading British airline Virgin Atlantic will extend its Glasgow – Orlando service to meet high demand, according to a report by the Daily Record.

The airline said that it will add a new Friday flight to its winter 2016 schedule, which will offer more than 7,000 seats in the November 2016 to March 2017 winter season. Virgin Atlantic added that the new winter flights will serve alongside its three times a week summer service between Glasgow and Florida.

Commenting on the plan, Erik Varwijk, executive vice president of commercial at Virgin Atlantic, said: ‘We’re delighted to be offering our customers more choice when flying to some of their favourite destinations.

‘Florida is enduringly popular with our customers, so it makes perfect sense to increase this service during the most popular months.’

Steven Marshall, marketing manager at Glasgow Airport, added: ‘This is fantastic news for Scottish travellers looking to get away to America’s sunshine state next winter from Scotland’s largest city.

‘It demonstrates the popularity of Virgin Atlantic’s existing Orlando summer service which has grown every year since it launched at Glasgow Airport in 2007. Indeed – a great announcement to start off the airport’s 50 anniversary year.’

The new service is part of Virgin Atlantic’s joint venture with Delta Air Lines, which seeks to expand the trans-Atlantic route network between the UK and North America.

Separately, the Mirror reported that Virgin Atlantic has cut its fuel surcharge by £20 following the drop in oil prices. The saving, on return flights, will apply to future bookings, it said.

The move comes after complaints that airlines have not been passing the drop in oil costs on to customers.

‘Although we buy our fuel months and years in advance – meaning that recent falls in the price of oil do not immediately impact costs – we have decided to, again, lower our fuel charge by £20 per return journey for customers. Overall, our prices have reduced by £70 per trip per person since fuel prices began to fall.’ Virgin.

Virgin Atlantic introduces 787-9 Dreamliner on Delhi-London route

British airline Virgin Atlantic is operating its 787-9 Dreamliner on the Delhi-London route – the first European carrier to operate the larger Boeing aircraft on this flight.

Virgin Atlantic operates seven daily flights every week from Delhi to London with many onward connections, including New York.

Passengers travelling on the maiden 787-9 Dreamliner flight to London from Delhi on March 31 were offered the chance to take a ‘First Flight Selfie’ whilst checking-in and boarding the flight from Delhi IGI airport. Virgin Atlantic has recently introduced the ultimate #SkyhighSelfie on its 787 aircraft, offering customers the opportunity to check in on Facebook and share their photos from 35,000 feet.

‘We’ve been serving and delighting our customers for 15 years from Delhi and the launch of the Dreamliner, with our latest cabin interiors, further demonstrates our commitment to India and enables us to build on the success of our Delhi route,’ Nick Parker, Head of India and Middle East for Virgin Atlantic said.

‘We know our Indian customers are going to love flying our Dreamliner. Every aspect has been meticulously designed to enhance their experience; not only seats and social spaces, inflight entertainment and Wi-Fi, but we’ve also invested in other areas that are so important to customers, including the onboard meal services. I’m delighted to confirm that we’ve increased the number of our fantastic local Indian crew on each flight, who along with our exceptional airport team, will deliver the personalised Virgin Atlantic service that our customers so love,’ he added.

The 787-9 Dreamliners are configured with 31 Upper Class, 35 Premium Economy and 198 Economy seats. Features offered onboard include access to Wi-Fi connectivity, the latest in-flight entertainment, dynamic mood lighting and cabin windows 65 percent larger than the industry standard.

 

Virgin Atlantic to offer 70Mb broadband services in -flight

Passengers travelling with Virgin Atlantic will soon be able to enjoy ultra-fast broadband services in-flight.

Global aero communications service provider Gogo has announced a partnership with Virgin Atlantic, owned by Sir Richard Branson, to offer in-flight connectivity services on Virgin Atlantic’s existing fleet of aircraft. With the agreement, the airline will become the first European carrier to offer Gogo’s 2Ku in-flight broadband solution, which offers download speeds of up to 70Mb over a local Wi-Fi network – from mid-2015.

‘Virgin Atlantic is on the cutting edge when it comes to delivering technology solutions to their passengers and we’re extremely excited to deliver the best connectivity solutions to keep their passengers connected anywhere they fly around the world,’ said Michael Small, Gogo’s president and CEO. ‘Virgin Atlantic’s relationship with Delta Air Lines will also allow us to build a seamless experience for passengers who fly both airlines.’

Reuben Arnold, Brand and Customer Engagement Director at Virgin Atlantic said: ‘We’re always looking at ways to enhance the on board experience for our customers and expanding in-flight connectivity across our fleet is just one of the ways in which we are doing this. We were impressed with Gogo’s connectivity solution and look forward to all of our customers being able to enjoy this service whilst they fly.’

The in-flight ultra-fast Wi-Fi is being launched as part of a £300 million fleet upgrade undertaken by Virgin Atlantic to improve customer experience.

Virgin Atlantic had earlier this month announced plans to update its network and make significant investment into the Virgin Atlantic customer experience. Under the plan, the airline has identified opportunities for investment into its transatlantic schedule, increasing its presence in the key UK – US travel market to maximise the benefits of its joint venture partnership with Delta Air Lines. The network changes will deliver up to five new daily transatlantic flights and see over 500 more Virgin Atlantic flights operate in summer 2015 compared to summer 2014.

Virgin Atlantic to resume daily direct flight from London to Cape Town

Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Atlantic will resume its seasonal service to Cape Town, with daily flights connecting to London, on October 27.

Virgin Atlantic operates flights from Johannesburg to London throughout the year, and from Cape Town to London from October to March, when British holidaymakers plan to visit Cape Town’s warm beaches.

The airline has also improved its service schedule with the introduction of larger Airbus A340-600 equipment for Thursday, Saturday and Sunday flights from Cape Town. With the new service, Virgin Atlantic will offer almost 5,000 more seats on the Cape Town-Heathrow route than last year, and over 8,000 seats more than originally planned.

Simon Newton-Smith, the Virgin Atlantic general manager for South Africa, said that Virgin Atlantic is delighted to return to Cape Town with daily flights from the very start of the season. ‘We are returning with a larger ‘peak day’ aircraft than originally planned. The extra seats will provide a welcome boost to the Western Cape economy with the incremental income from international visitors expected to reach nearly R50m,’ he said.

Last October when Virgin Atlantic resumed its direct flights from Cape Town to London, Newton-Smith said, ‘Cape Town is one of the key tourist destinations in South Africa, with its beautiful beaches and surrounding wine estates. We want to make it easier for international travellers to visit the city. By introducing the direct flight for summer, we believe this will drive additional tourism to both London and Cape Town by offering convenience along with the unique Virgin experience our passengers love. The direct route also cuts down costs, whichever way you’re flying.’

Thulani Nzima, South African tourism chief executive officer, said that an additional airlift into South Africa is always great news. He added, ‘Tourist arrivals growth to South Africa has been consistently strong and European markets are recovering well after the global recession. Virgin Atlantic’s increased capacity directly from London into Cape Town is a boost for Cape Town Tourism and is an indication of consumer confidence in our destination.’

 

Virgin offers Upper Class ground service to all

Virgin Atlantic has decided to offer its Upper Class ground service to all passengers.

The company has introduced its new ‘Guest List’ product designed to offer a VIP travel experience for passengers in Economy and Premium Economy cabins before boarding the aircraft. Starting at £240 per person or from £340 per couple, passengers can enjoy ground-service benefits including limousine transfer to the airport, fast-track security and entry to Virgin’s Clubhouse lounges, services that are regularly offered to Upper Class passengers.

The Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse in Heathrow Terminal-3 was voted the world’s best airline lounge in the recent Ultratravel 100 awards. The facilities there include a spa that offers complimentary treatments and haircuts, a complimentary bar and full catering facilities.

The Upper Class ground service also includes ‘whisked through check-in’, use of the Upper Class Wing drop-off at London Heathrow or Curbside drop-off at London Gatwick, and to have passenger baggage tagged as Upper Class.

The service is available at London Gatwick, London Heathrow, New York JFK, Newark, Boston, Washington and San Francisco.

As cited by Telegraph Travel, for a November flight from Heathrow to New York, a one-way economy-class fare costs from £814.15; a premium economy-class fare costs £1,601.15. Upper Class fares for the same flight cost £4,751.15. Meanwhile, the outbound cost of a return journey between London and New York over the same period would cost from £278.65 in economy; £536.65 in premium economy; and £1,343.15 in Upper Class.

Last month, Virgin Atlantic and Delta Air Lines unveiled a code-share agreement across 108 routes across North America and the UK.

 

Virgin Atlantic postpones delivery of A380 superjumbos

Virgin Atlantic Airways Limited has decided to delay taking the delivery of six A380 superjumbos that were ordered from Airbus SAS (EAD) over a decade ago, according to Bloomberg.

Virgin Atlantic, which placed an order for the double-deckers in 2000, has ‘deferred them yet again,’ with the first delivery now due in 2018 rather than 2017, said chief executive officer, Craig Kreeger. Among the first carriers to order the A380, Crawley, England-based Virgin was originally due to take the model in 2006.

However, the programme delays at Airbus and the global economic slump have prompted the airline to evaluate its own business model and assess whether it still required the world’s largest jetliner. ‘It’s hard but not impossible to see a world where we want to take the aircraft,’ Kreeger said, adding: ‘It’s not a clear choice.’

While most airlines are opting for new planes such as the A380 for fuel efficiency, Kreeger said that Virgin is focused more on the introduction of Boeing’s 787, with the first of 16 Dreamliner aircraft due in September 2014.

Boeing had several operational problems with the model, which was grounded for three months earlier this year following battery glitches. It was also undergoing investigation after a fire on an Ethiopian Airways Enterprise jet at London Heathrow on July 12.

‘We can’t ignore the technical issues Boeing has faced,’ Kreeger said, adding that any further anomalies would likely be sorted out by the time Virgin gets the plane.

He also said that the regulatory approval for an antitrust-immune joint venture with Delta Air Lines, which holds a 49 percent stake in Virgin, should be received before the year’s end.

Kreeger, who took over as CEO on February 1, is currently pursuing a turnaround plan for the ailing company to revive earnings by 2015.