Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Atlantic Airways is to launch its first UK domestic flights next year, the airline announced today.
Virgin Atlantic is planning to fly from London’s Heathrow Airport to Manchester Airport starting in March 2013, setting up in competition to the existing service offered by rival British Airways.
The airline claims that competition on this route has been neglected in the remedy process following the takeover of bmi by British Airways’ parent company. It says it aims to provide choice for the 650,000 passengers who travel between the two cities.
To launch the service Virgin Atlantic will be using some of its existing slots, but it will also apply for all of the remedy slots being awarded by the European Commission following the bmi takeover.
As well as providing choice for point to point passengers, the new short-haul route will feed the airline’s long-haul network operating from Heathrow. Virgin Atlantic cited figures showing that over 65% of passengers flying from Manchester to London connect onwards to other destinations, and the majority of these passengers are travelling to points served by Virgin Atlantic.
Additional short-haul routes are planned in the future.
“Flying between Heathrow and Manchester is just the start for Virgin Atlantic’s new short-haul operation. We have the means to connect thousands of passengers to our long-haul network as well as to destinations served by other carriers,” commented Virgin Atlantic chief executive Steve Ridgway.
Three daily services will be flown on the Manchester route, using leased Airbus A319 aircraft. The first flight launches on 31 March 2013 and tickets are available from today.