Virgin Atlantic and China Eastern strengthen travel links with codeshare

Virgin Atlantic and China Eastern have announced a strategic partnership through a new codeshare agreement, reinforcing vital business and leisure ties to East Asia and expanding access to various destinations within China.

In the initial phase of this collaboration, passengers booking through Virgin Atlantic can seamlessly connect from the airline’s Heathrow to Shanghai services to multiple destinations in China, such as Chengdu, Changsha, Qingdao, Shenzhen, and Xi’an. Tickets for these flights are now available.

In reciprocation, China Eastern customers, pending government approval, will soon be able to connect via Heathrow to Caribbean and African destinations, including Jamaica, Nassau, Lagos, Cape Town, and Johannesburg. Both airlines are members of the SkyTeam alliance, with Virgin Atlantic having joined last year. The two carriers have been co-located at Shanghai Pudong Terminal One since November, providing benefits such as SkyPriority services for Virgin Atlantic Flying Club Gold and Silver members and China Eastern Miles members, encompassing priority check-in, boarding, and additional baggage allowances.

Juha Jarvinen, Chief Commercial Officer at Virgin Atlantic, commented, ‘China and East Asia is an incredibly important region for Virgin Atlantic and we were delighted to welcome back our Heathrow to Shanghai service last year, providing vital links to one of the UK’s largest trading partners, for both passenger and cargo services.

‘Our new codeshare with China Eastern, a fellow SkyTeam partner, will serve continued demand for travel to the region and strengthens our commitment to China and East Asia. We know these agreements bring plenty of benefits to our customers, from increased network scope to China and beyond, to reciprocal loyalty rewards for our Flying Club members.’

The expanded codeshare not only facilitates a smoother travel experience but also offers Virgin Flying Club members accelerated rewards, with opportunities to earn both Virgin Points and Tier Points on every codeshare flight with China Eastern. The option to redeem Virgin Points is anticipated to be available shortly.

Virgin Atlantic resumed its Shanghai services on May 1, 2023, post the global pandemic, recognizing China’s significance as one of the UK’s most crucial trading partners. Shanghai, being the country’s largest city and a renowned commercial and financial hub, plays a pivotal role in fostering international connectivity and economic relationships.

Virgin Atlantic announces major transatlantic expansion at London Heathrow

Virgin Atlantic is set to expand its transatlantic services, increasing flights from London Heathrow to key U.S. destinations in the summer of 2024. This move follows recent plans to boost its presence in the USA, with additional services to Miami and a new seasonal route from Manchester to Las Vegas.

Virgin Atlantic is achieving a milestone next summer, introducing a seventh daily flight to New York JFK and collaborating with Delta for a total of ten daily services-an 11% increase from 2023. A second daily flight to Boston will also be added, bringing the total to three daily flights.

Juha Jarvinen, Chief Commercial Officer, Virgin Atlantic, commented; ‘We’re excited to announce additional flying to our heartland in the USA for summer 2024.

‘By utilising our brand new A350 and A339 aircraft, our passengers can travel in style with Virgin Atlantic, as we commit to operating the routes that our customers love to fly.

‘With Boston and New York, JFK being key business and leisure travel routes, customers can rely on Virgin Atlantic to connect them to these popular destinations as we offer more opportunities to travel with our expanded offering.’

Expanded routes will feature Virgin Atlantic’s latest A330-900neo and A350-1000 aircraft, increasing Upper and Premium seats by 23% for a more luxurious travel experience. The A330-900neo will showcase the innovative Retreat Suite in Upper Class. Delta customers will have access to Delta’s upgraded Delta One product.

Virgin Atlantic’s expanded schedule solidifies its commitment to the heartland of the USA, providing a record number of daily departures to popular destinations like Atlanta, Los Angeles, Miami, Orlando, San Francisco, Seattle, Tampa, and Washington DC. The increased services aim to improve connections, enabling seamless travel to cities across the USA and global destinations via London Heathrow. Through its partnership with Delta Air Lines, passengers can conveniently reach Bengaluru, Delhi, Mumbai, Johannesburg, and Shanghai.

Virgin Atlantic prepares for world’s first 100% Sustainable Aviation Fuel transatlantic flight following new development

Virgin Atlantic, along with its consortium partners including Rolls-Royce, is set to operate the world’s first 100% Sustainable Aviation Fuel flight across the Atlantic on November 28, 2023.

The flight will travel from London Heathrow to New York JFK on a Boeing 787 Dreamliner. The consortium leading the project, jointly funded by the UK Department for Transport, includes Rolls-Royce, Boeing, the University of Sheffield, Imperial College London, and Rocky Mountain Institute.

Prior to the flight, a successful ground test of the Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engine using the SAF blend was completed, marking a significant milestone in the project. The SAF blend used in the ground test consists of 88% Hydroprocessed Esters and Fatty Acids (HEFA) pathway and 12% synthetic aromatic kerosene (SAK) SAF. The successful ground test is a significant development, although the flight still requires further approvals to take place in November.

Shai Weiss, CEO, Virgin Atlantic, commented: ‘The 100% Sustainable Aviation Fuel transatlantic flight will be a historic moment in aviation’s roadmap to decarbonisation. Alongside fleet transformation, SAF is the most readily available way for our industry to decarbonise, but currently there’s not enough supply and without it and the radical collaboration required to produce it, we can’t meet our 2030 targets. We need UK government support to create a UK SAF industry to allow for every single flight out of the UK to operate with 100% SAF – if we make it, we can fly it.’

Air bp and Virent have been chosen as fuel suppliers to provide the required 60 tonnes of SAF for the flight. The SAF production includes both HEFA and SAK SAF at an 88% and 12% blend ratio. A successful completion of the world’s first 100% SAF transatlantic flight will be a significant achievement for the aviation industry, showcasing the potential of SAF as a viable solution for sustainable long-haul flight. While SAF currently represents a small fraction of jet fuel volumes, the flight will demonstrate the potential for 100% SAF as a drop-in replacement for traditional fossil fuel.

In addition to the SAF flight, the project will focus on researching and addressing other environmental impacts of the aviation sector. The consortium aims to contribute to the reduction of CO2 emissions through operational efficiencies, research the non-CO2 effects of flying, and conduct an end-to-end life cycle analysis of the flight. Any remaining CO2 emissions from the flight will be offset through innovative carbon removals from biochar projects.

Virgin Atlantic expands route network with the addition of Dubai, Las Vegas

Virgin Atlantic has recently announced its return to Dubai, as it seeks to expand its route network.

The airline will offer a four-times-a-week service between London Heathrow and Dubai from October to March, catering to Brits seeking sunny winter breaks. Flights are available to book, with return fares starting at £505.

Commencing on October 28, the route will be operated by Virgin Atlantic’s 787-9 aircraft, featuring 31 Upper Class, 35 Premium, and 192 Economy Delight, Classic, and Light seats. The new service will provide connections for customers traveling from Dubai via London Heathrow to various destinations across North America within both the Virgin Atlantic and Delta networks, including New York, Seattle, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.

Virgin Atlantic Holidays provides customers with a wide range of options, with over 30 properties throughout Dubai and the surrounding region.

Besides Dubai’s stunning resorts that offer five-star luxury, the nearby desert presents opportunities for camel rides, sandboarding, and dune bashing. Virgin Atlantic last operated flights to Dubai in March 2019.

In addition to the Dubai route, Virgin Atlantic has also announced expanded services from Manchester Airport. Starting in summer 2024, new flights to Las Vegas will be introduced, providing passengers from the North West and beyond with an increased range of leisure travel options, including Orlando and Barbados. These Manchester flights will operate on the Airbus A350-1000 aircraft, offering 16 Upper Class, 56 Premium, and 325 Economy Delight, Classic, and Light seats, as well as a unique social space called ‘The Booth,’ exclusively for Upper Class passengers to enjoy various activities while crossing the Atlantic. Economy fares start from £770 per person.

Rikke Christensen, Vice President of Network & Alliances at Virgin Atlantic, commented: ‘I’m thrilled to be returning to Dubai – a destination we know our customers and people love. Its inviting climate during the cold UK winter, combined with its first-class collection of hotels and experiences make Dubai a must visit destination for sunshine hungry Brits.

We’ve long wanted to return to this incredible city when the time was right, and this year presents the perfect opportunity. Dubai will complement our growing collection of winter sun destinations, bolstered by The Maldives and Turks and Caicos later this year alongside our new services between Manchester and Las Vegas in Summer 2024 and the soon to commence inter-Caribbean flights. I’m looking forward to welcoming our customers back to this vibrant, exciting destination once more.’

Virgin Atlantic relaunches flights to Shanghai

Virgin Atlantic has relaunched its services to Shanghai, re-establishing its business and leisure connections between the United Kingdom and China.

The daily service will resume today, May 1, 2023, with fares starting from GBP432 per person. The move comes after a relaxation in travel restrictions between the two countries, which sees the borders reopening to foreign nationals for the first time since December 23, 2020.

Following the restart announcement earlier this year, there has been strong demand for both business and leisure travel in both directions.

Known as China’s primary hub of modernity, innovation and futurism, Shanghai is today one of the world’s most promising cities. The city also offers UK tourists a melting pot of culture, from Pudong district’s futuristic skyline, the world-famous waterfront promenade, the Bund, to the traditional pavilions in Yu Gardens.

Juha Jarvinen, Chief Commercial Officer at Virgin Atlantic, commented: ‘The restart of our services to Shanghai is a major milestone for Virgin Atlantic. Shanghai was the first of our routes to be suspended in 2020 at the start of the global pandemic and the last to return, making it the final piece to restore our flying programme to full capacity.

‘After such a long hiatus, we’re looking forward to welcoming our customers back to Shanghai and providing vital links to one of the UK’s largest trading partners, for both passenger and cargo services.’

Virgin Atlantic’s Shanghai flights will continue to operate on a Boeing 787-9. Customers travelling to China will need to show proof of a negative PCR test before they enter the country, alongside a health declaration form.

Shanghai is also a hub to the airline’s new SkyTeam partner, China Eastern. Offering a wide range of connections throughout China and beyond, Virgin Atlantic customers will be able to connect to onward services. Flying Club members will soon be able to earn and redeem Virgin Points across China Eastern’s flying programme, alongside other SkyTeam partners.

Virgin Atlantic confirms Shanghai relaunch date

Virgin Atlantic has said that it will restart its flights to Shanghai, re-establishing both business and leisure connections between the United Kingdom and China.

The move comes following a relaxation in travel restrictions between the two countries, which sees the borders reopening to foreign nationals for the first time since 2020. Shanghai is Virgin Atlantic’s final route to be re-instated following the global pandemic, having been closed for a total of 859 days at the point of its relaunch.

The daily service will resume on May 01, 2023, with fares starting from £669 per person.

As it did prior to the pandemic, Virgin Atlantic’s Shanghai flights will operate on a Boeing 787-9.

China remains one of the most important trading partners to the UK and as the country’s largest city, Shanghai is a world renowned commercial and financial hub, as well as a promising tourist destination, and a gateway to China’s incredibly diverse scenery and culture. Shanghai is also a hub to the airline’s new SkyTeam partner, China Eastern, which offers a wide range of connections throughout China and beyond for onwards travel.

Juha Jarvinen, Chief Commercial Officer at Virgin Atlantic, commented: ‘The return of our Shanghai services has been a long-time coming and I’m delighted it’s finally a reality. We’re looking forward to welcoming our customers back on board and providing vital links to one of the UK’s largest trading partners, for both passenger and cargo services.

‘Shanghai is the final route to return following the global pandemic, restoring our flying programme to full capacity. Our focus for 2023 is on delivery, as we look forward to launching routes to new destinations, welcoming brand new clean, green aircraft and getting back to our best for our customers and people.’

Customers travelling to China do not need to show proof of vaccination, however each passenger will need to show proof of a negative PCR test before they enter the country, alongside a health declaration form.

Passengers arriving from China into the UK must take a negative PCR or lateral flow test. Customers are advised to check for the latest travel advice.

Virgin Atlantic announces new services to the Maldives, Turks and Caicos Islands for 2023

Virgin Atlantic has recently announced that it will begin flying to the islands of the Maldives as well as Turks and Caicos in 2023, offering Brits an opportunity to explore beautiful beaches and fine snorkelling and scuba diving experiences.

Virgin Atlantic will launch a winter seasonal three-times weekly service to the Maldives from London Heathrow, which will go on sale on November 30 2022, and commence on October 22, 2023.

The airline will also launch a year-round twice weekly service to the Turks and Caicos which will go on sale from January 11, 2023, for flights starting on November 15, 2023 from London Heathrow. Both routes will be operated on the airline’s Boeing 787-9 aircraft, boasting 31 Upper Class, 35 Premium and 192 Economy Delight, Classic and Light seats. Flight prices are yet to be announced.

In addition, Virgin Atlantic Holidays will offer seven nights at Hard Rock Maldives for rates starting from £2,359 per person, including scheduled Virgin Atlantic flights from London Heathrow direct to the Maldives, Bed and Breakfast accommodation. Price is per person based on two adults travelling and sharing a Silver Sky Studio double room and includes all applicable taxes and fuel surcharges, which are subject to change. Price is based on a departure on November 1, 2023.

Juha Jarvinen, Chief Commercial Officer at Virgin Atlantic, commented, ‘We couldn’t be more thrilled to add these two exotic new routes to our flying portfolio. Nothing sets our hearts soaring like a new destination to explore, so, with two about join our network, there’s only really one question. Where to first?

‘The Maldives has always been an incredibly popular destination for Virgin Atlantic Holidays customers, which is why we couldn’t wait to give them the opportunity to travel to the idyllic location in style onboard Virgin Atlantic aircraft.

‘We’re delighted to begin flying to the Turks and Caicos islands, as we continue to grow our Caribbean portfolio, offering more choice for our customers to explore these beautiful islands and enjoy some winter sun.

‘We know our customers will be over the moon with the introduction of these new destinations, both offering something unique for travellers looking to either simply relax or explore a new corner of the world.’

Virgin Atlantic Holidays packages to the Maldives are on sale now, while Turks and Caicos packages will go on sale later in the year.

Virgin Atlantic announces new Autumn/Winter onboard menu

Virgin Atlantic has introduced its new Autumn/Winter menu across all cabins, with a focus on seasonal and destination inspired dishes.

Upper Class customers will be welcomed with a glass of Hambledon English sparkling wine paired with British raspberries and sweet rhubarb tonic, or Champagne and rosemary truffle artisan crisps. The new additions to the Upper Class menu include dishes such as thyme and garlic roasted chicken with dauphinoise potatoes, baby carrots, tender stem broccoli and peppercorn sauce; miso and sesame crusted salmon with sweet potato puree, among others.

Virgin Atlantic has also expanded its Upper Class Extra Bites menu, with the addition of cream tea with fudge scones and clotted cream, salted caramel spread and strawberry jam. Customers can also choose from a gourmet fish goujon hot sandwich served with tartare sauce, and a chicken Caesar club sandwich served with salted crisps.

Virgin Atlantic has also added to its pre-order menu, where Upper Class and Premium customers can pre-select their inflight meals between 72-24 hours of departure.

Virgin Atlantic has also introduced new beverages to its onboard menu, including Brooklyn Pilsner, Cobra lager, and Lucky Saint non-alcoholic beer. Also available onboard is the Brook Ridge Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, Diemersdal Pinotage from South Africa, and Soave and Pinot Noir from the family-owned Gianni Tessari estate.

Premium customers will have a fresh seasonal menu to choose from, with highlights including hearty chicken casserole with mustard mash and buttered savoy cabbage; classic shepherd’s pie, vegetables and creamy mashed potatoes or Thai green vegetable curry with steamed jasmine rice. For breakfast, Premium customers have a new selection of hot cooked breakfasts, served with seasonal fruit, yoghurt, and breakfast pastries.

Meanwhile the Economy class features dishes such as chicken tikka masala with saffron rice, red quinoa and green peas and creamy macaroni cheese with a panko and cheese crumb. Customers can also enjoy an on-demand pantry offering sweet and savoury snacks.

Corneel Koster, Chief Customer and Operating Officer, Virgin Atlantic said: ‘We’re pleased to announce an enhanced food and drinks service on board. By creating new dishes and working with new partners, we’re bringing a more personal, unique Virgin Atlantic experience for all our customers during the Autumn/Winter season.

‘Creating magical moments for our customers is what we do best; delighting them from the moment they step on board to when they land into their destination. We will continue to develop our inflight offering, as our customers do business, visit family, or seek winter sun for that much needed holiday.’

Virgin Atlantic set to commence Google Glass pilot scheme

As part of its efforts to improve customer service, Virgin Atlantic is set to launch a Google Glass and wearable technology pilot among its Upper Class staff, according to a report by The Telegraph.

In an industry first, concierge staff in the airline’s Upper Class Wing, which serves business class passengers, will be using Google Glass and other wearable technology to start the check-in process. The pilot scheme is expected to run for six weeks.

Google Glass is intended to help staff to update passengers on their latest flight information, weather and local events at their destination, and translate any foreign language information. The new technology is also intended to advise airline staff of their passengers’ dietary and refreshment preferences in the future.

Dave Bulman, director of IT, Virgin Atlantic, said: ‘While it’s fantastic that more people can now fly than ever before, the fact that air travel has become so accessible has led to some of the sheen being lost for many passengers.

‘By being the first in the industry to test how Google Glass and other wearable technology can improve customer experience, we are upholding Virgin Atlantic’s long tradition of shaking things up and putting innovation at the heart of the flying experience.’

The company will also test iBeacon with its Upper Class passengers at Heathrow. This is a new, low-powered Bluetooth transmitter that will update iOS users with regard to nearby services, discounts and updates on their flight boarding schedules.

Virgin Atlantic has previously introduced a number of technological innovations, becoming the first airline to allow mobile connectivity and SMS texting on board in 2011. 3G is now available on all 10 of Virgin Atlantic’s A330 aircraft, and Wi-Fi is currently being trialled on three of these. All 16 of Virgin Atlantic’s 787s will have the latest 4G technology available on board, the report noted.

The company was also among first airlines to offer individual TVs to its business class passengers in the late 1980s.

Virgin to appeal against CAA’s decision over airport charges

Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Atlantic is considering an appeal against the decision by the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) over airport charges, The Travel mole has reported.

Virgin Atlantic CEO, Craig Kreeger, said that the airline was ‘baffled’ at the CAA’s decision in October, which suggested that prices rise in line with inflation.

The statement comes after the CAA published its final decisions on economic regulation at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted, to be effective from April 2014, offering passengers lower prices and high service standards. At Heathrow, the CAA’s price control decision will see prices fall in real terms by 1.5 percent per year between 2014 and 2019. The changes are introduced after passenger traffic forecasts strengthened from October, and the cost of capital has been revised.

Kreeger said: ‘Today’s decision is a far cry from the reduction needed to mitigate the incredibly steep price rises customers have seen in Heathrow airport charges in the last few years. Prices at Heathrow are already triple the level they were 10 years ago, and coupled with ever increasing Air Passenger Duty, customers flying to and from the UK are facing some of the highest travelling charges in the world.

‘Virgin Atlantic is totally committed to improving the passenger experience at Heathrow, but we believe this could have been achieved with a more significant reduction in charges. We will be carefully considering our right to appeal on behalf of our passengers who will ultimately pay the price for the CAA’s decision.’

With a regulation based on the airport operator’s own commitments to its airline customers, the CAA is backing the commitments with a licence, to allow itself to step in to protect users if there are reductions in service quality that are against the passenger interest.

Virgin also accused the CAA of laxity with its regulation at London Gatwick.

‘We hope the CAA will properly hold Gatwick Airport and its shareholders to account in order to improve its price offer to its airline customers,’ said Kreeger.

‘If it fails to do so, coupled with looser regulatory controls, we are concerned that the CAA is failing in its statutory obligation to protect passenger interests, and will consider our right to appeal on their behalf,’ he added.