Virgin’s Little Red formally launched today

Virgin Atlantic, the UK-based long haul airline, is formally launching its Little Red domestic subsidiary today.

Although the new airline has been operational since it commenced flights between Manchester and London on March 31, and the Edinburgh service also started on April 5, the airline’s head, Sir Richard Branson, will officially mark the company’s launch today by joining a flight from Heathrow to Edinburgh. The Aberdeen route will commence its service from tomorrow, April 9.

Countering the negative opinion of some commentators that have compared the service available from Little Red with that of the ill-fated BMI, Craig Kreeger, Virgin Atlantic’s recently appointed chief executive, told the Sunday Telegraph, ‘We’ve done this in a way that will work. BMI obviously struggled but they didn’t have the long-haul network to connect to. So it’s a completely different proposition from a business case standpoint to create a short-haul network that feeds a long-haul network the size of ours which gives the capability for it to be successful.’

With regards to Virgin Atlantic’s tie up with US-based Delta Air Lines in December, Kreeger added, ‘From a British customer perspective, we’re going to offer a bunch of new destinations via Delta’s network and that will make us a more attractive airline. But I think equally importantly, Delta will be able to offer our services to their frequent fliers, accounts, and travel agencies in the US, and that is going to lead to increased demand for our products on the US side.

‘Those two things together really will position us to take advantage of the fact that we’ve got great customer service delivery that people want to fly on and now we’ll be able to offer people the opportunity to do more things.’

Virgin April fool blog promotes Little Red airline

The head of UK-based Virgin Atlantic airline, Sir Richard Branson, took advantage of April Fools’ Day to promote the company’s new domestic offshoot service, Little Red, on his blog.

The blog page showed a picture of a glass-bottomed airliner taking to the skies and described it as a ‘world first’ in aircraft innovation.

In addition to his blog, the head of Virgin used twitter to circulate the hoax, saying, ‘This ensures the aisle in the plane’s underbelly is completely see through, allowing passengers to look down directly as the plane makes its journey through the sky. I’m thrilled to announce that Virgin has created another world-first with the introduction of the technology required to produce the world’s first glass-bottomed plane. I am incredibly proud of yet another aviation breakthrough, which has been years in the making. I can’t wait to experience the first flight for myself with my family and other natural born explorers.

‘2012 was a year of celebrating what is brilliant about Great Britain and I’m excited that in 2013 we are continuing this uplifting spirit by developing an experience that will enable Little Red passengers to appreciate the beauty of the British landscape. And with an unrivalled view of Scotland I hope this gives Scottish tourism an even bigger boost.’

The tongue-in-cheek promotion for Little Red came as the Virgin subsidiary made its inaugural flights from Manchester to Heathrow on March 31. The Edinburgh route will commence this Friday, April 5, with the Heathrow route coming into service on April 9.

Virgin Atlantic reacts to losses with pay freeze

The new chief executive of Virgin Atlantic, a UK-based air carrier, has imposed an immediate pay freeze at the company in reaction to the expectation of large annual losses, according to a report in the Sunday Times.

An internal memo that has been seen by the newspaper shows that recently appointed executive, Craig Kreeger, has reacted swiftly to the airline’s expected record annual losses of £135 million. With reference to Virgin Atlantic’s financial performance, the memo reportedly said that it is ‘well behind where we anticipated.’ The predicted loss will follow a deficit of £80.2 million that the company reported last year.

The airline employs 9,000 staff that will be subject to the freeze, and while no job losses have yet been announced, the option is unlikely to be discounted as the company endeavours to balance its books.

Virgin Atlantic has apparently confirmed the detail of Kreeger’s memo, which talks of a cost-cutting plan in addition to the pay freeze. The company has already implemented plans to save £40 million and take an extra £50 million in long-haul revenues, but Kreeger has decided that these actions alone are unlikely to turn its finances around.

‘The 2012-13 financial airline performance will be a significant loss. Two years of significant cash losses have depleted our resources and decreased our ability to invest,’ Kreeger said, and expanding on his pronouncement that the company would have to make ‘some tough calls,’ he added, ‘One of those decisions is to recognise and communicate the reality that we cannot afford any pay increases this year. It is not ideal that this is the first big decision I have to take.’

Virgin is introducing more fuel-efficient aircraft, introducing a new UK domestic airline, Little Red, and has formed a partnership with US-based Delta Airlines to help it compete with the BritishAirways/American Airlines alliance on transatlantic routes.

Virgin names new domestic airline ‘Little Red’

The aviation interests of UK-based Virgin are set to increase with the launch of a new domestic airline at the end of this month.

The company has announced that the new airline, which will make its first flight on March 31, will be known as Little Red. Following the airline’s launch in Manchester on the last day of this month, it will be rolled out in Edinburgh on April 5 and Aberdeen on April 9.

From its inception the airline will operate four round trips per day between London Heathrow and Manchester, six round trips per day between Heathrow and Edinburgh, and three round trips per day between Heathrow and Aberdeen.

Virgin has long been a rival to British Airways, particularly on trans-Atlantic routes, and now it hopes to be as effective in taking on BA in the domestic market. The company also sees the new services as providing lucrative short-haul connections to its long-haul routes.

Little Red is not a no-frills service; passengers will have pre-assigned seats, a 23kg check-in luggage allowance, hot breakfasts provided on early morning flights and complimentary snacks and drinks.

The president of Virgin Atlantic, Richard Branson, said, ‘Virgin Atlantic has been on an incredible journey since we started with a single plane 29 years ago.

‘Little Red represents the next step on that journey as we go head to head with British Airways to provide domestic flights that deliver Virgin Atlantic’s rock and roll spirit as well as real value for money.

‘The European Commission recognised that a British Airways monopoly would be undeniably bad for consumers, and Virgin Atlantic Little Red will stop British Airways dominating routes and driving higher prices.’

 

Virgin Trains Announces Standard Class Fare Sale

Virgin Trains, a UK-based train operator, has announced a sale of its standard class fares.

The company is offering up to 50,000 Virgin Trains seats at discounted prices, with prices commencing from £5.50 for a journey between London and Birmingham. The offer is running until January 19, 2012, on a first come, first served basis.

The tickets are for travel between January 21, and March 17, 2013, and may also be purchased online.

The company will be operating around 106 extra carriages on its services, which will add around 30 percent more seats in Standard Class.

Some of the bargain fares include one-way fares from London to Manchester for £10.00; Liverpool £10.00, North Wales £11.00, The Lake District £13.00, and Glasgow £17.00. The tickets on offer are for travel to or from London.

Virgin Trains claims to offer a high speed, high frequency service, and operates the West Coast passenger train franchise via the UK cities of London, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Preston and Glasgow. Since its contract expired in 2012, the train company is currently operating the West Coast services on a short-term contract, while the UK government prepares for a fresh round of the bidding process.

Previously, Tony Collins, the chief executive of Virgin Rail Group, the parent company of Virgin Trains, said, ‘I’m delighted that we have an agreement with the Department for Transport that gives us the chance to continue providing high quality services to our customers. We have had great support from staff and customers in recent months and we will repay that loyalty with even better service.

We will not be sitting back in the coming months, but are keen to introduce more improvements to the service, which is already the most popular long-distance service in the country. We are proud of what we have achieved since 1997, but there is undoubtedly more to come and we will work closely with the Department for Transport to bring even better services in future.’

UK Government Announces Termination of West Coast Franchise

UK Transport secretary, Patrick McLoughlin, has announced the cancellation of the contract awarding the West Coast mainline rail franchise to First Group.

The government has scrapped the contract after an investigation by the UK Department for Transport discovered major flaws in the franchise process.

Virgin Trains, a UK-based train company, had earlier commenced court proceedings against a decision by the Department of Transport to award the West Coast Main Line franchise to FirstGroup, a Scotland-based transport company.

Virgin Trains has been operating the railway service since 1997, but the Department for Transport awarded the new franchise contract for December 2012 to 2026 to First Group. Angered by the decision, Virgin had collected around 150,000 signatures for a campaign to force a parliamentary discussion to debate the granting of the contract to First Group.

Following the concerns raised, the Transport Select Committee has decided to hold a hearing into the competition for the rail franchise.

The new transport secretary, Patrick McLoughlin, said, ‘I have had to cancel the competition for the running of the West Coast franchise because of deeply regrettable and completely unacceptable mistakes made by my department in the way it managed the process.

A detailed examination by my officials into what happened has revealed these flaws and means it is no longer possible to award a new franchise on the basis of the competition that was held.

I have ordered two independent reviews to look urgently and thoroughly into the matter so that we know what exactly happened and how we can make sure our rail franchise programme is fit for purpose.’

West Coast Rail Contract Will Be Signed, Says UK Transport Secretary

The new West Coast mainline rail franchise in the UK, which has recently been granted to First Group, a Scotland based transportation company, will be signed later this week despite growing controversy over the decision.

Virgin Trains, a UK-based train company and the present operator of the franchise, has been running an electronic signature campaign to press for a parliamentary discussion against the granting of the operation of the West Coast line to First Group. The campaign has collected around 100,000 signatures to date.

However, transport secretary, Justine Greening, has said that the new contract will be signed soon and there is no chance of it being delayed despite the pressure tactics for a review that are being exerted by Virgin Trains.

Ms Greening said in an interview with the BBC, that, ‘If we want to move away from above-inflation fares, when it comes to franchising lucrative lines we’ve got to get a better deal for taxpayers, and that’s what we’ve done.

We do plan to push on with signing the contract with FirstGroup and I do suspect that, although I have a huge amount of respect for Virgin and the work they have done on the line, had they won the bid, they would have been perfectly happy with the process.’

Earlier, Tim O’Toole, the chief executive officer of First Group, said, ‘We are delighted to be selected by government to operate this unique railway which connects communities across the country and plays a vital role in the UK’s economic growth.

Our winning bid is a deliverable proposition that is compelling for all who want to see a greater use of our rail networks. We will be making significant improvements including reduced journey times and introducing new direct services.’

JetBlue and Virgin America to offer more rewards for frequent travellers

JetBlue Airways and Virgin America have announced that they are to offer more benefits for frequent travellers.

The two airline companies are to introduce new reward tiers that provide additional perks for their most-frequent travellers.

JetBlue Airways said that it would launch TrueBlue Mosaic for members who either have earned 15,000 flight points, or who have completed 30 flight segments and reached a minimum of 12,000 flight points in a year. Those who are eligible for this benefit can get a free second-checked bag. A companion accompanying the traveller may also claim the benefit. Other benefits include quicker security screening at 36 airports, and early boarding. They will also have access to a dedicated, 24/7 customer service line and have options to redeem points for extra-legroom seats.

Not to be left behind, Virgin America this week introduced its Elevate Gold option for travellers. Customers who earn 50,000 status points a year are provided with the benefit, while customers who earn 20,000 status points will be listed under the Elevate Silver scheme. Elevate Silver customers can get one free checked bag, while Gold members can get up to three. In addition, flyers in both tiers will receive perks such as priority check-in, security clearance and boarding.

Virgin America also announced that later this summer, it will launch Main Cabin Express, which according to the company, will feature the ‘most sought-after seats in its Main Cabin-seats in rows five, six and nine aboard the company’s Airbus A319 planes, and rows five, six, seven and nine aboard A320 planes.’

 

Virgin America Announces Code Share with Virgin Australia

Virgin America, a US-based low cost airline company, has announced that it is entering into its first ever code share with its sister-branded, Australia-based airline, Virgin Australia.

The company has commenced selling tickets in Australia from July 4, 2012, for Virgin America flights from Los Angeles to Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Fort Lauderdale, Philadelphia, Portland, Seattle and Washington DC.

Passengers may book at www.virginaustralia.com, for a single ticket when travelling from Australia to various destinations in the US.

Diana Walke, the airline vice president of planning and sales, said, ‘This is the first-ever code share agreement for our young airline and we are excited to offer a more seamless experience to travellers from both sides of the Pacific, especially our most loyal guests, those who seek out the award-winning service for which Virgin airlines are known.’

The airline has recently moved to a new reservations system, which has allowed it to implement its initial code share alliance, and also to expand its interline agreements.

Merren McArthur, the Virgin Australia group executive of alliances, network and yield, said, ‘The United States is a very important market for Australia; it is the third most popular international destination for Australian visitors and our fourth biggest source of overseas visitors to Australia. We are delighted to offer Virgin Australia guests access to Virgin America services in the United States and to offer them frequent flyer recognition throughout the journey.’

Virgin America is currently operating with a new fleet, featuring state of the art entertainment systems, in-flight WiFi and three classes of service.

Three Virgin Brand Airlines Announce Combined Website

Virgin Atlantic Airways, a UK-based airline, is partnering with its sister airlines, Virgin America, and Virgin Australia, to begin a joint entertainment, digital advertising campaign, and to launch a new website.

The three airlines have launched the new website, www.flyvirgin.com, and have released an independent short film, for promotion purposes, highlighting their claims of a strong flyer base, exceptional amenities and modern in-flight entertainment services.

Virgin Group founder, Sir Richard Branson, said, ‘Virgin airlines have swept all the awards for having the best entertainment systems in the skies but a movie about falling in love with a stranger onboard a Virgin plane: now that’s in-flight entertainment!’

The new programme has also launched a fully linked airline loyalty programme for the frequent fliers of all three airlines, which will allow its members to redeem their flying miles for complimentary flights at any of the airlines.

Simon Bradley, the vice president of marketing at Virgin Atlantic, commenting on the new campaign, said, ‘Los Angeles is one of the most glamorous cities in the world, with its style, fame and deep roots in the entertainment industry. It’s also the only destination that brings all three Virgin airlines together with multiple flights per day to cities across the globe. From the beginning, we knew our campaign should live in Los Angeles and we chose a movie as the best way to celebrate all that is great about LA. Departure Date is our love story to Los Angeles where anything can happen and dreams can come true.’