As we all remember, Virgin Atlantic moaned its way through the sale of BMI to IAG. Part of the deal was that IAG had to disperse 14 pairs of slots of Heathrow to buy BMI.
These slots are assigned for shot haul and domestic use.
Well, it seems Virgin Atlantic has full authority on these slots from the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and the European Commission, confirming routes to the following:
- Manchester (pre-announced and confirmed to operate)
- Edinburgh (pre-announced)
- Aberdeen (pre-announced)
- Nice (new)
It seems Virgin Atlantic’s focus on its flying between Scotland and Heathrow, running multiple daily flights from Edinburgh and Aberdeen to London Heathrow.
The slots which were assigned for Moscow are to be re-assigned as Virgin Atlantic lost the offer of route authority (with EasyJet winning the 2nd Carrier status between London and Moscow)
Steve Ridgway CEO of Virgin Atlantic says:
“We have fought hard for the right to fly short-haul and take a strong challenge to British Airways within these shores. For 28 years both airlines have battled for customers all over the world and it has meant that British consumers have ultimately had some of the world’s best flying and lowest fares.
“This is the beginning of an exciting new era in Virgin Atlantic history and we now feel a responsibility to everyone that has supported us in this challenge. Passengers can look forward to a great short-haul service with us but most importantly reap the benefits from the re-injection of vital competition we can provide on these routes.“
Timetables are being firmed up for all services, as well as equipment leases (mainly as Virgin Atlantic currently operate a wide-body only fleet at the moment, and for shorter haul legs they won’t fill those seats for all the will in the world). It’s looking Virgin will lease some A320’s for this purpose.
The only other known operator to bid for the slots was Aer Lingus – who have a rather large slot portfolio at Heathrow already.
The big question that needs to be asked however is will Virgin Atlantic manage to turn a profit on these routes? Whilst Virgin Atlantic will provide welcome competition on these short-haul legs, turning a profit is a different matter. Considering BMI were substituting larger A320’s and A319’s for a ERJ-145’s on these routes at a lot of points – and still managing to loose £36 per passenger, I can’t help feeling this could be a costly exercise for Virgin.
However, if they can combine this short haul feed with an alliance membership – who knows.
It’ll be down to the old chestnut – Yield Per Passenger.