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.’

Virgin Atlantic Announces Plans to Acquire Vacant Heathrow Slots

Virgin Atlantic, an airline subsidiary of UK-based Virgin Group, intends to bid for the acquisition of 12 slot pairs at London Heathrow Airport in UK.

The airline is keen to acquire the slots to facilitate its plans to commence short-haul services between Scotland and Heathrow, in the UK. The airport slots will come available when British Airways’ parent company, International Airlines Group (IAG), gives them up as part of its merger with BMI, British Midland International, an airline formerly owned by Lufthansa, a German airline company.

Virgin Atlantic chief commercial officer, Julie Southern, reportedly said in a discussion with Travel Weekly, ‘We will bid for all the slots. We have always provided competition to BA. That is Richard’s (Sir Richard Branson’s) raison d’etre. We believe we can provide point-to-point services. It would be an extension of our network using different aircraft.’

The airline also intends to use the airport slots for new services to Cairo, Riyadh, Nice and Moscow.

Julie Southern has also expressed her dismay at the EU competition commissioner’s decision on IAG’s acquisition of BMI, saying, ‘IAG won the go ahead for its GBP172 million deal to buy BMI from Lufthansa at the end of March. We find it hard to believe the full ramifications can have been investigated in such a short period. The whole process has been pretty disappointing.
We want all 12 (airport slots). We will wait to see the full judgment. There are so many aspects: can we get hold of them? What are the strings? Are there constraints? We are puzzled as to why the slots are in two groups. It would be sub-optimal for anyone to operate (only some of the slots). We feel all 12 should stay together.’

Other companies could also bid for the slots as and when they come available, with Aer Lingus one likely contender.

Beach Wheelchairs now offered at holiday resorts

Virgin Holidays is delighted to announce a new complimentary service for their customers – beach wheelchairs. Available in selected hotels in Antigua, Barbados and St Lucia, these specially designed chairs allow customers who have walking difficulties or are wheelchair user’s, easy access onto the beach and into the ocean. These tricked-out chairs come complete with extra chunky beach-friendly wheels, sunshades and storage for beach essentials.

 

Virgin Holidays employee Nicola Davis, herself a wheelchair user, came up with the idea after visiting the Caribbean on holiday. “I have used beach wheelchairs in Florida for many years and then I travelled to the Caribbean and found out that none of the hotels offered them. I really missed being able to spend time on the beach with my children and realised that many people were missing out on one of the most important parts of a Caribbean holiday.” The chairs were developed in partnership with Aqua Creek Products and have been getting rave reviews from the first customers that have used them, giving a liberating freedom to move around the beautiful Caribbean beaches with ease.

 

The beach wheelchairs are available to Virgin Holidays guests at the Almond Beach Village, Almond Casuarina and Almond Beach Club in Barbados, St Lucian by Rex, St Lucia and the Jolly Beach in Antigua, and are pre-bookable through the Virgin Holidays Special Assistance Team.

 

Virgin Holidays award winning Special Assistance team offers a dedicated service for disabled and limited mobility customers. Brochures highlight accommodation which is best suited for wheelchair access and those with reduced mobility can book accessible transfers, adapted vehicle hire and medical equipment hire. The team also provides theme park and excursions accessibility information to help customers plan ahead.

 

Call us on 0844 557 3998 or email special.assistance@virginholidays.com to find out more.

Bag a Bargain with a Last Minute Holiday

Last minute holidays are becoming increasingly popular for those looking for a bargain getaway! With great discounts, last minute holidays are a fantastic way to go on a dream holiday with a realistic budget. With destinations all over the world, to suit different people with different budgets, on Virgin holidays’ last minute holidays you’re sure to find your perfect holiday.

Package holidays are popular amongst Virgin holidays’ customers. With a varied range of destinations and hotels to suit all different budgets, package holidays with Virgin will surely meet your needs. Whether you want a budget city break in the USA or an indulgent and luxury holiday in the Caribbean, Virgin’s package holidays will provide a holiday to meet your requirements.

If you’re planning on club hopping in Miami’s South Beach, or if you’re planning a fun filled family trip to Orlando, or even a golfing trip to the numerous golf courses along the Florida Keys, Florida holidays with Virgin will meet your needs. And why not visit all three? With Virgins twin-centre and multi-centre holidays, you can arrange the Florida holiday of your dreams and see everything that Florida has to offer. Whether you’re planning on retreating to a luxury resort or making yourself at home with a holiday villa or apartment, with Virgin’s Florida holidays there’s a number of different options for you to consider. Florida holidays with Virgin even give you the opportunity to combine your visit to Florida with a cruise holiday, setting sail to North America or the Caribbean.

For great value accommodation, renting Florida villas is a great alternative to a resort hotel. With Florida villas you’ll get a fantastic amount of space which no hotel room could compete with, and having your own space means you can make your Florida villa your home away from home. Florida villas are located in upmarket, quiet, residential areas, and are only ever a short walk or drive away from the action. Florida villas are certainly the most wallet friendly options for accommodation in Florida, leaving you with plenty of extra cash to spend in Orlando’s exciting theme parks, Miami’s vibrant bars or the many malls, restaurants and attractions around Florida.

To book – www.virginholidays.co.uk or Call 0844 557 3859

Hurricane Irene – advice for travellers.

Hurricane warnings are in place for parts of the Caribbean and the US as Hurricane Irene approaches. Hurricane Irene will pass over the north coastal areas of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, and the Bahamas during 22 and 23 August, with strong winds and heavy rain affecting neighbouring regions.

A hurricane warning is in place for Turks and Caicos Islands. Airports are expected to close from 21:00 (local time).

Hurricane Irene is expected to reach Florida on 25 August.

Travellers can monitor the progress of storms on the US National Hurricane Center website, and advised to monitor local and international weather reports. British nationals should follow the advice of the local authorities and tour operators.

Branson’s island ravaged by hurricane Irene
The Hurricane has already hit Sir Richard Branson’s luxury Caribbean home, burning it to the ground. The Massive house on the Virgin tycoon’s £60million private island was struck by lightening on Monday morning when the whole region was battered by the storm.

Branston revealed that his family and guests all escaped unharmed. Guests included Kate Winslet, who carried Branston’s 90-year-old mother to safety.