August 21, 2012
Credit: Photo: Airbus
Virgin Atlantic has announced plans to operate three daily return flights between London Heathrow and Manchester from next year, its first foray into the short-haul domestic market.
The airline intends to launch the flights in March, providing competition to rival British Airways’ short-haul service. Virgin Atlantic claims that BA operates a monopoly on the Heathrow to Manchester route following its takeover of UK carrier BMI earlier this year.
Virgin Atlantic is applying for the 12 Heathrow take-off and landing slots that BA was forced to give up as part of the BMI deal. Applications for the slots are due by the end of this week.
“The airline is going to apply for all of the remedy slots being awarded by the European Commission following the IAG takeover of BMI, but is using some of its existing slots to service the Manchester to London route,” says Virgin Atlantic chief executive Steve Ridgway.
Virgin Atlantic “believes competition on this route has been neglected in the remedy process and aims to provide choice for the 650,000 passengers who travel between the two cities,” according to Ridgway.
The new flights will use leased Airbus A319 aircraft and will feed into Virgin Atlantic’s long-haul services from Heathrow. BA operates 17 return flights between London and Manchester, 13 of which are from Heathrow.
Irish carrier Aer Lingus is also expected to bid for the slots so it can offer services between Edinburgh and Heathrow.