Well Virgin has been making lots of noises about its UK Domestic services – and now we have a brand name “Virgin Atlantic – Little Red“
Little Red commences services on the 31st March, with a short expansion to follow. The routes and dates are:
- London Heathrow <> Manchester – 31st March, 4 times a day
- London Heathrow <> Edinburgh – 5th April, 6 times a day
- London Heathrow <> Aberdeen – 9th April, 3 times a day
Little Red will be using wet leased Aer Lingus Airbus A320’s in a single class layout – 29 rows of seats at 30″ pitch. Flights will operate from Heathrow Terminal 1 (The Gate 8 complex), with an airside connection to Heathrow T3 for those connecting to and from Virgin Atlantic long haul services.
Lounges have been confirmed so far at Manchester, Edinburgh and Aberdeen, with news of a London lounge to come for connecting Upper Class passengers and Virgin Gold Flying Club Members.
In terms of passenger experience in the air, passengers will get 23kg of free checked luggage, pre-assigned seats and free drinks and snacks, including “delicious bacon rolls” on morning flights departing before 09:00. After 09:00, it’ll be mainly a snack service with cookies and crisps, a full bar, tea and coffee – and for those flying to the Scottish destinations – Irn Bru (Scotland’s other national drink).
Speaking of miles, Earning is 750 miles per leg, redemptions start at 7500 miles per leg. Not exciting in the least, but miles are miles.
Of course, Richard Branson has been rolled out with some quotes:
“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 Little Red will stop British Airways dominating routes and driving higher prices.”
I’m honestly not sure that Little Red will survive long if I’m completely honest. Whilst it will provide a good feeder into other Virgin services from London, I see bit issues competing in the domestic market where British Airways control the top, and EasyJet and Ryanair are chewing hard from the bottom (and in EasyJet’s case, looking more like a traditional carrier some days).
Another matter to consider are these slots that Little Red will be using – a majority of these slots are grandfathered from the sale of BMI to International Airlines Group. These slots have domestic/short haul rights on them for 6 IATA seasons – or 3 years. After that point, they can be converted into long haul slots… where the real money is at Heathrow…