New Virgin Atlantic codeshares to Australia

Virgin Atlantic has launched a new codeshare with Virgin Australia on flights from London Heathrow to Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney via Los Angeles.

London Air Travel » Virgin Atlantic

Virgin Australia Aircraft (Image Credit: Virgin Australia)

A little under ten years ago, when Virgin America and what was then V Australia were in their formative years, there was much talk of the formation of a “Virgin Alliance”.

In February 2009, the then CEOs of Virgin Atlantic, Virgin America and V Australia gathered in Los Angeles to talk up the concept of a new fourth alliance to rival Oneworld, Star Alliance and SkyTeam.

Sir Richard Branson, who then also hoped to set up new Virgin airlines in Brazil and Russia, flew around the world to show that you could now fly around the world London Heathrow – Hong Kong – Sydney – Los Angeles – London Heathrow on Virgin branded airlines.

Much has changed since then. Virgin America has been acquired by Alaska Airlines and the brand will soon disappear. Virgin Atlantic suspended its Sydney service in 2014. What is now Virgin Australia has undergone numerous changes to its structure and is now owned by Etihad, Singapore Airlines, HNA Aviation Group and others.

After a long period of inactivity, Virgin Atlantic has launched a new codeshare arrangement with Virgin Australia from Sunday 25 March 2018.

It is now possible to book, via Virgin Atlantic, flights from London to Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney via Los Angeles.

From a cursory scan of flights online, this is not the most efficient way to fly to Australia due to length of the stopover in Los Angeles which takes the flight time to at least 30 hours. It is also of course conventional to fly from London to Australia eastbound via the Middle East or Asia. However, this may be an option for those who want to earn Virgin Flying Club miles or sample Virgin Australia. Note that some trans-pacific codeshare flights are operated by Delta which has a trans-pacific joint-venture with Virgin Australia.

Also note that whilst Virgin Australia offers economy, premium economy and business class as per Virgin Atlantic, the design of the cabin and seats differs. Full details of Virgin Australia’s in-flight cabins and amenities are available on its website.

We have seen announcements online referring to Virgin Australia’s recently launched Hong Kong – Melbourne route also being included in the codeshare. However, we can’t see any flights on sale at Virgin Atlantic at present.

Air France KLM acquires a 31% stake in Virgin Atlantic

Air France KLM is to acquire a 31% stake in Virgin Atlantic and will operate a transatlantic joint-venture with Delta Air Lines.

London Air Travel » Virgin Atlantic

Virgin Atlantic, Air France KLM and Delta
Virgin Atlantic, Air France KLM and Delta

Air France KLM, Delta and Virgin Atlantic have today announced a significant series of transactions which will see Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group cede control of Virgin Atlantic.

Virgin Atlantic is currently 49% owned by Delta Air Lines and 51% owned by Virgin Group.

Air France KLM is to acquire a 31% stake in Virgin Atlantic for £220m, reducing Virgin Group’s ownership of the airline to 20%. Sir Richard Branson is to retain the position of President.

Separately, Delta Air Lines and China Eastern will each acquire a 10% stake in Air France KLM for a combined sum of €751m.

Virgin Atlantic will retain its name.  In order to preserve all of its flying rights, it remain a majority UK owned airline with an Air Operating Certificate in the UK.  (Quite how this will be achieved has not been disclosed.)

In addition, Virgin, Delta and Air France KLM are to operate a combined transatlantic joint-venture between Europe and the United States. At present Delta has separate transatlantic joint-ventures with both Air France-France and Virgin Atlantic.

Operating a combined joint-venture will mean that Virgin will codeshare on Air France KLM’s transatlantic routes from Paris and Amsterdam and allow reciprocal earning of frequent flyer miles and recognition of frequent flyer benefits. Virgin and Air France KLM will also benefit from access to each other’s corporate customer bases.

There are a few unknowns:

Nothing has been said about whether Virgin Atlantic will join the SkyTeam alliance of which Delta and Air France KLM are members.

When Delta acquired a 49% share in Virgin Atlantic there was a significant restructuring of its route network with routes to Tokyo, Cape Town, Mumbai, and Vancouver suspended.  Virgin has also suspended Accra, Nairobi and Sydney. This has left only Dubai, Shanghai, Johannesburg, Lagos, and Delhi as non-US long-haul routes from London. It’s not clear whether these will remain or be removed in favour of codeshares from the respective hubs of KLM and Air France.

The press releases refer to co-location at key hubs to improve connectivity and achieve cost savings.  One of these is London Heathrow.  Currently Delta and Virgin Atlantic fly from Terminal 3.  Air France and KLM operate from Terminal 4.  Consolidating all operations in one terminal would make sense, but would involve a lot of upheaval.

It’s also not clear whether Virgin’s frequent flyer programme “Flying Club” will remain in the long term or be merged with Air France KLM’s “Flying Blue”.  Today’s release refers to an enchanced frequent flyer partnership.  However, a combined flying programme could be a powerful rival to the British Airways Executive Club and Avios currency, particularly given that KLM has a substantial presence at UK regional airports.

Whilst today’s announcement has been heralded as positive news, it has to be noted that Virgin Atlantic is forecast to make a loss this year. Furthermore, with Virgin suspending London Heathrow – Chicago it was arguably struggling to compete against its transatlantic rivals.

As for Sir Richard Branson, this does effectively mean the end of his ambitions in the aviation industry.  Whilst the Virgin name will remain, he will no longer control the airline.  The Virgin Group has disposed of many businesses over the years, but it had always maintained that it would keep control of Virgin Atlantic, this business most closely associated with his public persona.

Here are the news releases from Air France KLM,  Delta and Virgin Atlantic. Sir Richard Branson has also penned a letter (with the inevitable barbs at BA and International Airlines Group CEO Willie Walsh).

Virgin Atlantic launches London Heathrow – Las Vegas for 2018 CES

Virgin Atlantic is to operate two special return flights between London Heathrow (departing on Sunday 7 & Monday 8 January 2018) and Las Vegas (returning Friday 12 & Saturday 13 January 2018) for the benefit of visitors to the annual Consumer Electronics Show.

London Air Travel » Virgin Atlantic

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner Upper Class Cabin (Credit: Virgin Atlantic)
Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner Upper Class Cabin (Credit: Virgin Atlantic)

Virgin Atlantic is to operate two special return flights between London Heathrow and Las Vegas for the benefit of visitors to the annual Consumer Electronics Show in January 2018.

The flights will depart London Heathrow on Sunday 7 and Monday 8 January 2018 and will return from Las Vegas on Friday 12 and Saturday 13 January 2018.

Flights will be operated using Virgin Atlantic’s Boeing 787 Dreamliner which features a larger Upper Class cabin as well as amenities such as in-flight WiFi.

These will complement Virgin’s existing Boeing 747 service between London Gatwick and Las Vegas and will compete BA’s own direct Boeing 747 services between London Heathrow and Las Vegas which can operate up to twice daily.

This new “pop up” route does point to Virgin being flexible with its schedule to take advantage of peaks in demand. The airline is to also launch a seasonal route from London Heathrow to Barbados in December 2017, which will again complement its London Gatwick service.

Flights are on sale now at

London Heathrow – Las Vegas

Flight VS961 Depart London Heathrow 11:15 – Arrive Las Vegas 14:00 (7, 8 January 2018)
Flight VS962 Depart Las Vegas 21:45 – Arrive London Heathrow 15:55 (12, 13 January 2018)

Why Virgin Atlantic’s #VAnotBA promotion falls flat

Why Virgin Atlantic’s #vanotba £50 flight discount is not worth the effort

London Air Travel » Virgin Atlantic

Virgin Atlantic
Virgin Atlantic #VAnotBA Promotion

Once upon a time, Virgin Atlantic never missed an opportunity to have a joke at the expense of its arch-rival British Airways.

Whether it was BA’s decision to introduce World Images tail fins, or to order twin rather than quad-engine long-haul aircraft or the botched opening of Terminal 5, Virgin Atlantic always seized the opportunity to generate free publicity.  Meanwhile, BA had no option but to maintain a dignified silence through gritted teeth.

For a long period of time, this worked very well.  It generated huge PR for Virgin Atlantic and, at least in PR terms, closed the gap in terms of the relative size of the two airlines.

Over the past few years, things have gone very quiet in terms of the rivalry between the BA and Virgin. Partly because Virgin has undergone changes in management and a restructuring to stem years of financial losses whilst BA has expanded considerably, primarily thanks to its merger with bmi in 2012.  Also, the overtly contrived publicity stunt has long been out of fashion.

So it’s something of a surprise to see Virgin launch a new promotion actively encouraging passengers to switch their bookings from BA to Virgin with the promise of a £50 discount.

Here’s how it is supposed to work:

  • You make a flight booking directly with British Airways (a price quote is not sufficient).
  • You then contact Virgin Atlantic twice, first by e-mail and then by telephone to make the same booking, and Virgin will give you a £50 discount off your flight for the same dates and destination.
  • You then have to contact BA to cancel your booking.
  • Crucially, you must contact BA within 24 hours of making your original BA booking in order to cancel your booking without penalty.  Otherwise, the cancellation will be processed in accordance with the rules of your fare and could be non-refundable.
  • Passengers are encouraged to share their experience using the hashtag #VAnotBA on social media.

Full details are on the Virgin Atlantic website.  Here are the rules of BA’s 24 hour cancellation policy.

Here is why this promotion is a bad idea:

1.  It feels like it is run for the benefit of Virgin Atlantic rather than passengers.

A £50 discount is, in the grand scheme of things, quite modest.  There is also a very limited window of opportunity.  The promotion runs from today, Tuesday 13 June to Thursday 15 June.

A cynic might wonder whether this promotion is run primarily to generate PR.

2.  It requires a lot of effort on the part of passengers

To take advantage of this promotion, you have to first make a booking direct with BA, e-mail the booking reference to Virgin, call Virgin to obtain a discounted flight and then contact BA to cancel your booking and obtain a refund from BA.

This is a lot of effort for a £50 discount.

3. It could all go wrong very easily

BA’s 24 hour cancellation window, amongst other limitations, only applies to direct flight only bookings.  It does not apply to BA Holidays bookings with hotels or car hire or flight bookings via travel agents.

BA is hardly going to be charitable if passengers inadvertently find themselves having to pay for two flights to the same destination on the exact same day.

You also have to wait for BA to process your refund. Given how busy the airline is dealing with compensation claims from last month’s IT outage, this could take many weeks.

A passenger could also easily find themselves having to pay a credit card bill with two flight bookings before the BA flight is refunded.  If a passenger cannot settle the credit card bill in full, the interest cost could easily wipe out the £50 saving.

Virgin Atlantic launches seasonal Heathrow – Barbados from Tuesday 12 December 2017

Virgin Atlantic will fly from London Heathrow to Barbados twice weekly from Tuesday 12 December 2017.

London Air Travel » Virgin Atlantic

Virgin Atlantic Logo (Image Credit: Virgin Atlantic)
Virgin Atlantic Logo (Image Credit: Virgin Atlantic)

Virgin Atlantic is to launch a new winter seasonal route from London Heathrow to Barbados.

The airline will fly from London Heathrow to Barbados Grantley Adams International Airport from Tuesday 12 December 2017 to Saturday 24 February 2018. Flights will operate twice weekly each Tuesday and Saturday. The route is then scheduled to resume on Tuesday 11 December 2018.

This will be the only direct route between London Heathrow and Barbados. This will complement Virgin Atlantic’s existing daily service from London Gatwick.

Flights will be operated using an Airbus A330 aircraft with 33 Upper Class, 48 Premium Economy and 185 Economy seats.

Flights will be on sale from Monday 27 February 2017 at Virgin

And here’s the timetable (please note this may vary by week):

London Heathrow – Barbados

Flight VS131 Depart London Heathrow 13:15 – Arrive Barbados 17:55 (Tuesday, Saturday)
Flight VS132 Depart Barbados 20:15 – Arrive London Heathrow 07:55 (Tuesday, Saturday)

Virgin Atlantic unveiles its new London Gatwick Clubhouse

Virgin Atlantic has opened a new Clubhouse lounge in London Gatwick’s North Terminal.

London Air Travel » Virgin Atlantic

Today, 25 January 2017, sees a significant reorganisation at London Gatwick. easyJet has consolidated its operations in the North Terminal. 

To accommodate this move, British Airways has moved from the North Terminal to the South Terminal. Virgin Atlantic has moved from the South Terminal, its home at Gatwick since the airline first launched in 1984, to the North Terminal.

This move of course means new lounges for both BA and Virgin Atlantic.

Virgin Atlantic has today opened its new Clubhouse in the North Terminal.  It is located on level 4 of the terminal, after security.

Lounge features include:

  • A marble bar offering complimentary drinks including bespoke cocktails from East London bar The White Lyan
  • A complimentary to order brunch menu featuring popular staples such as Eggs Benedict
  • Floor to ceiling windows with views of the airport’s apron
  • A woodland themed play area for younger travellers
  • A Clubhouse spa with a selection of complimentary treatments such as facials and paid for treatments such as wet shaves and massages.  The spa is open from 7.00am to 12:30pm

Here is the spa treatment menudining menu and cocktail menu.

First impressions are that the lounge looks bright, spacious and, at least when the weather’s good, the floor-to-ceiling window views should put passengers in the right frame of mind for a holiday.

Here are some official pictures released by Virgin Atlantic:

Passengers travelling in Virgin’s Upper Class cabin and Flying Club gold cardholders are eligible to access the lounge.

Virgin Atlantic flies from London Gatwick to Antigua, Barbados, Cancun, Grenada, Havana, Las Vegas, Montego Bay, Orlando, St Lucia, Tobago and Varadero.

Virgin Atlantic’s Hong Kong Clubhouse is to close from Sunday 5 February 2017

Virgin Atlantic’s Clubhouse lounge in Hong Kong has closed.

London Air Travel » Virgin Atlantic

Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse, Hong Kong
Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse, Hong Kong (Image Credit; Virgin Atlantic)

Virgin Atlantic has long been known for its small, but distinctive, portfolio of Clubhouse lounges around the world. That portfolio will be a little smaller shortly as its Clubhouse at Hong Kong International Airport is to close from Sunday 5 February 2017.

The reason for the closure is that the lease on the space occupied by the clubhouse has come up for renewal and Virgin Atlantic has decided not to renew the lease for reasons of cost.

Passengers travelling in Virgin Atlantic’s Upper Class cabin and Flying Club Gold members will be able to use the third party Plaza Premium lounge.

The Plaza Premium lounge is located near Gate 40 on Level 7, Departures level of Terminal 1. The lounge is open 24 hours a day. Facilities include showers, a bar, and a private resting area.
Continue reading “Virgin Atlantic’s Hong Kong Clubhouse is to close from Sunday 5 February 2017”

Virgin Atlantic suspends London Heathrow – Chicago O’Hare

Virgin Atlantic will not reinstate its summer seasonal service from London Heathrow to Chicago.

London Air Travel » Virgin Atlantic

Virgin Atlantic aircraft at London Heathrow

Virgin Atlantic has announced it is suspending its summer seasonal route from London Heathrow to Chicago O’Hare airport from summer 2017.

The seasonal route had been due to return in 2017 from May to October.  However, the route has now been suspended permanently.

It is something of understatement to say that the Chicago route has something of a chequered history at Virgin Atlantic.

The route has been launched and suspended on more than one occasion and most recently has operated on a summer seasonal basis only.  It is highly unlikely that the route will now ever return.

Whilst no reason has been given for the cancellation, it is likely that United and British Airways & American Airlines offering significantly higher frequencies (some six joint daily flights in the case of AA & BA) has put Virgin Atlantic at a competitive disadvantage.

Affected passengers should contact either Virgin Atlantic or their travel agent to arrange re-routing via Delta and Virgin Atlantic services to other North American gateways such as New York JFK and Detroit.

Virgin Atlantic to fly London Heathrow – Seattle from 26 March 2017

Virgin Atlantic will fly from London Heathrow to Seattle from 26 March 2017, replacing Delta on this route.

London Air Travel » Virgin Atlantic

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner Upper Class Cabin (Credit: Virgin Atlantic)
Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner Upper Class Cabin (Credit: Virgin Atlantic)

Virgin Atlantic is to fly to Seattle from 26 March 2017.

Flights will be operated from London Heathrow Terminal 3 to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport using a Boeing 787-900 aircraft offering economy, premium economy and Upper Class cabins.

Strictly speaking, this is not a new route as Virgin is merely replacing its transatlantic joint-venture partner Delta on this route.

In turn, Delta will also replace Virgin Atlantic on one of the daily frequencies it operates from London Heathrow to Atlanta and Detroit.

Full details of the aircraft swaps, which also include changes to services from Manchester, are contained in this Delta press release.

Delta has also today announced that it is to fly from London Heathrow to Portland, Oregon from 26 May 2017.

London Heathrow – Seattle

Flight VS105 Depart London Heathrow 11:00 – Arrive Seattle 13:20

Seattle – London Heathrow

Flight VS106 Depart Seattle 19:10 – Arrive London Heathrow 13:00

Virgin Atlantic takes firsts steps to create Manchester hub

London Air Travel » Virgin Atlantic

Virgin Atlantic Logo (Image Credit: Virgin Atlantic)
Virgin Atlantic Logo (Image Credit: Virgin Atlantic)

Virgin Atlantic has today, 31 March 2016, announced that it is to launch new routes from Manchester to Boston & San Francisco from late March 2017.

Boston will initially operate twice weekly (Wednesdays & Saturdays) and San Francisco will initially operate thrice weekly (Tuesdays, Fridays, & Sundays).

Flights will be operated by Virgin Atlantic’s fleet of Airbus A330 aircraft with Upper Class (business), premium economy and economy seating.

Virgin Atlantic has of course long had a presence in Manchester. It flies to Orlando, Barbados, Las Vegas, and Atlanta. The latter being the hub of its transatlantic partner and minority shareholder, Delta Air Lines.

However, what is noteworthy about today’s announcement is that first these routes seemingly are geared to attracting business as well as leisure traffic.

Furthermore, Virgin will, for the first time we believe, offer a significant number of short-haul connections at Manchester with Flybe from a large number of airports in the UK and Europe such as Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Exeter, Southampton and Newquay.

As such, today’s announcement could presage the development of small, but growing, hub for Virgin Atlantic at Manchester.

It is also good to see Virgin Atlantic expanding after a period of contraction at London Heathrow with the closure of its “Little Red” domestic flights to Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Manchester, as well as the closure of a number of routes such as Cape Town, Mumbai, Tokyo and Vancouver.

It also points to a very growing and competitive transatlantic market in the UK. Indeed, Boston and San Francisco are two recently announced routes by Norwegian at London Gatwick.

In terms of competitive response from carriers in London, we don’t expect any immediate response from British Airways or its parent company IAG.

BA attracted considerable criticism many years ago for withdrawing its final non-London international route, Manchester – New York JFK. BA would no doubt point to its growing transatlantic network in London, its codeshare partner American Airlines flights from Manchester to New York JFK, Chicago and Philadelphia and its IAG sibling Aer Lingus flights to North America from Manchester via Dublin (with the benefit of pre-clearance). That said, we have no doubt today’s developments will be watched with interest.

Virgin’s flights from Manchester to Boston and San Francisco are on sale at Virgin Atlantic.