On Saturday 26th September, Virgin Atlantic’s Little Red unit finally threw in the towel on UK Domestic operations, putting an end to competition out of Heathrow to UK domestic routes.
So with Little Red gone, what’s left for the UK Domestic market?
- Ryanair/EasyJet have filled in some cases in some gaps, operating to Luton, Gatwick
- FlyBe continues to operate its merry way, operating to regional destinations in the UK to other destinations
And at Heathrow you have the grand option of one airline to connect onto if you need to hit regional destinations out of Heathrow:
- British Airways
Yes – there’s no competition now on routes out of Heathrow to UK Domestic destinations.
Let’s be honest, Little Red tried to make a go of it out of Heathrow, but came out with more than a bloody nose with loads averaging at 37.6% according CAPA and the UK CAA, leading to the situation where we are today – with one airline holding all the cards out of one airport.
For Heathrow and Domestic routes to work, feed is required from the long haul network into the short-haul network – Origin and Destination traffic doesn’t add up at this hub with the limited slots that are available.
If limitless slots were available to both Virgin Atlantic and other airlines, we might see other airlines have a go at Heathrow – but they aren’t there.
It would take a brave operator who has the ongoing feed to even attempt to set up a base at Heathrow. However, they need to look to the side, and see the leftovers of the attempts – British Midland, Lufthansa (who tried when they owned British Midland) and now Virgin Atlantic’s Little Red.
So the state of the UK Domestic market? Split. With British Airways holding the high end of the market and connections out of Heathrow, EasyJet and Ryanair operating to their bases to handle point to point traffic, and Flybe doing what FlyBe does best -fly anywhere it likes.
There’s also another factor: Rail. In some markets, air has been abandoned to rail (most notability the London to Manchester pair – a mere 217 miles as the crow flies – in which British Airways offers services to Heathrow – and the only viable competition is Virgin Trains).
Meanwhile, those who used to connect at Heathrow have other options – ones that British airlines should fear. They’re called Frankfurt, Paris, Amsterdam, Dubai and Abu Dhabi. And people are heading to these connecting points in droves.
With one less option to Heathrow, it might drive some further traffic to hubs abroad.
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