Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd has announced plans to fly from London Heathrow to Manchester Airport from March 2013 – providing competition to BA’s short haul service. The new route is the airline’s first foray into domestic flying; signaling what carrier describes as, “the start of a new network” which will provide regional feed to its long-haul services as well as, “providing choice for important point to point passengers”.
Sir Richard Branson’s airline says is going to apply, “for all of the remedy slots” being awarded by the European Commission following the IAG takeover of bmi, but states that it is using some of its existing slots to service the Manchester to London route. The airline says that it believes competition on this route has been neglected in the remedy process and aims to provide choice for the 650,000 passengers (CAA statistics) who travel between the two cities.
Steve Ridgway, the airlines Chief Executive, said: “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. Our new service will provide strong competition to omnipresent BA; keep fares low and give consumers a genuine choice of airline to fly to Heathrow and beyond.”
Ken O’Toole, Chief Commercial Officer at Manchester Airports Group (MAG), said: “We are pleased to see Virgin Atlantic increasing their presence in Manchester and to see competition returning on the London route, as that will be to the benefit of passengers flying from our airport. Virgin is already a strong carrier at the airport with long haul routes to Barbados, Orlando and Las Vegas and this move adds to their range of services for the North of England. We aim to support our airlines as they look to grow and we hope the success of Virgin’s domestic services will lead to further expansion at Manchester.”
The airline will operate three daily flights to Manchester using Airbus A319 aircraft from March 31, 2013.