Airlines Virgin Atlantic announces major Heathrow expansion

British carrier Virgin Atlantic has announced that it has ambitious plans for a Heathrow expansion. The airline seeks to become Britain´s second flag-carrier after British Airways.

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With the new plans to increase operations from UK´s largest airport, Virgin Atlantic is set to challenge the strong dominance of the International Airline Group (IAG), to which airlines like British Airways, Aer Lingus and Iberia belong.

Virgin Atlantic plans to significantly increase both its long-haul route network and also the domestic and European network. The plans will be put into reality, when the planned London-Heathrow expansion has taken place. Virgin Atlantic remains talks with the government over a possible reformation in the way Heathrow slots are allocated.

The new expansion plans for Virgin Atlantic see the carrier to operate flights to destinations such as Kolkata (India), Panama City (Panama) and Jakarta (Indonesia), where passengers can currently not travel non-stop. In 2020, Virgin hopes to serve 103 domestic, European and long-haul destinations.

Of the new 84 destinations planned, 12 are domestic, including Belfast, Manchester and Glasgow. 37 of them are European, including Madrid, Dublin and Barcelona. 35 global routes could be established including flights to Buenos Aires and Kunming.

Shai Weiss, CEO Virgin Atlantic, stated: “Heathrow has been dominated by one airline group for far too long. The third runway is a once in a lifetime opportunity to change the status quo and create a second flag carrier. This would lower fares and give real choice to passengers, as well giving Britain a real opportunity to boost its trade and investment links around the world. Changing the way take-off and landing slots are allocated for this unique and vital increase in capacity at the nation’s hub airport will create the right conditions for competition and innovation to thrive.”

IAG currently controls more than half of the total capacity at Heathrow. Last week, a new report was published, which found one in four passengers flying from LHR has no choice but to fly with one of the group’s airline. As a consequence, passengers may be paying up to 10% more in air fares, cited Virgin Atlantic the report.

The carrier added: “Virgin Atlantic’s plans address the urgent need for strong, effective competition at the UK’s only hub airport and will reduce the cost of flying for millions of British business and leisure passengers for whom Heathrow is the gateway to the world.”

Virgin Atlantic Airways was founded in June 1984 and currently operates a fleet of 14 Airbus A330s, five A340-600s, two A350-1000s, eight Boeing 747s and 17 787 Dreamliners. New state-of-the-art aircraft will be taken over in the coming years, making Virgin Atlantic one of the most modern carriers in Europe.

Virgin Atlantic international expansion map © Virgin Atlantic
Virgin Atlantic European expansion map © Virgin Atlantic

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