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.

Virgin Atlantic Little Red has closed

Virgin Atlantic’s “Little Red” short-haul airline which operated flights between London Heathrow, Manchester, Edinburgh and Aberdeen using aircraft and crews leased from Aer Lingus has ended operations as of Saturday 26 September 2015.

London Air Travel » Virgin Atlantic

Airbus A320 aircraft in Virgin Atlantic “Little Red” livery

Virgin Atlantic’s short-lived “Little Red” UK domestic network has now closed. Virgin Atlantic has now reverted back to being an exclusively long-haul airline.

Little Red’s last flight was VS3025 from Aberdeen to London Heathrow late on Saturday 26 September 2015.

The short-lived subsidiary operation of Virgin Atlantic, lasting a little over two years, flew between London Heathrow and Manchester, Edinburgh and Aberdeen.

It was born partly out of the requirement for British Airways to make slots available to competitors as a condition of the takeover of bmi British Midland by its parent company, International Airlines Group.

In the absence of any alternative airline coming forward to bid for the slots, the slot pairs forfeited by British Airways will now revert back to the airline.

This leaves British Airways as the sole operator of UK domestic flights from the North of England and Scotland to London Heathrow.

In terms of the impact of the closure of Little Red on connectivity to London Heathrow, British Airways is required to make seats available on its UK domestic network got connections to Virgin Atlantic and other airlines which codeshared with Virgin Atlantic Little Red such as United Airlines and Air New Zealand.

Virgin Atlantic cuts 500 jobs. But what happens next?

Virgin Atlantic has announced it is to cut 500 jobs. This follows the suspension of many long-haul routes and the closure of its “Little Red” short-haul operation at London Heathrow. What does mean for the airline, now 49% owned by Delta Air Lines?

London Air Travel » Virgin Atlantic

Virgin Atlantic aircraft at London Heathrow

The big aviation story today has of course been the release of the Airports Commission report on the expansion of airport runway capacity in London and the South East.

A cynic might therefore wonder whether it was no coincidence that Virgin Atlantic chose to announce in the past 24 hours that it is to cut 500 jobs, all of which will be from back office roles.

A company choosing to make itself more efficient through reducing management and administrative posts isn’t in itself that noteworthy. Indeed, it’s been a fact of corporate life for many decades.

However, in the context of Virgin Atlantic a reduction of 500 posts is significant.
Continue reading “Virgin Atlantic cuts 500 jobs. But what happens next?”

Virgin Atlantic “Up In The Air” will premier Tuesday 7 July 2015

“Up In The Air”, the long-awaited three part behind the scenes documentary at Virgin Atlantic, will premier in the UK on ITV at 9pm Tuesday 7 July 2015. The documentary is produced for ITV by The Garden Productions.

London Air Travel » Virgin Atlantic

Virgin Atlantic aircraft at London Heathrow

“Up In The Air”, the long-awaited three part behind the scenes documentary at Virgin Atlantic, will premier in the UK on ITV at 9pm Tuesday 7 July 2015.

This follows recent behind the scenes series at Heathrow by both the BBC and ITV (“Airport Live” and “Britain’s Busiest Airport”) and “A Very British Airline”, a behind the scenes look at British Airways by the BBC.

The documentary will cover Virgin Atlantic’s quest to recover from four consecutive years of financial losses with the delivery of its new fleet of Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft, the airline’s 30th birthday celebrations and the recruitment of new cabin crew.

Episode 1 – Tuesday 7 July 2015

In episode one we meet the team at the Virgin Atlantic base in Crawley, preparing for the airline’s 30th birthday event. Richard Branson, who founded the airline when he was just 34, is making a rare appearance.

Although the airline is celebrating its staying power in a notoriously fickle business, times have been hard recently, with finances up and down and often millions in the red. Whilst he hasn’t been involved in the day to day running of the airline for more than ten years, Richard Branson is still the face of the brand. He says: “Fortunately, I’ve been in the airline business long enough to know that you have tough years and good years. (We’ll still be around in 30 years) as long as we keep reinventing ourselves and keep ahead of the crowd.”

With a small fleet of 38, some of Virgin’s planes have been in service for around 20 years. The airline is hoping that its route back into profit lies in their five billion pound investment of new fuel efficient Dreamliner planes, which will eventually replace half its existing fleet of older gas guzzlers.

Certifying Engineer Paul, says: “This (plane’s) design is 1980s, over 25 years old. So the computing power in your smart phone is easily a match for this. If you can keep your aircraft age young, then you can always stay in the game.”

The first Dreamliner is on the production line and Customer Experience Design Manager Nik Lusardi is off on an unusual shopping trip to the Boeing factory in the States, where he will select passenger seats and most importantly – the swanky cabin loo. The pressure is on to get Nik’s upper class seats, which cost around £100,000 each, tweaked, tested and fitted into the Dreamliner in time.  

After a recruitment freeze of two years, Virgin is finally hiring cabin crew again, and over 2000 people apply for a job in just 48 hours. Jonathan, part of the Cabin Crew Recruitment team, says: “The golden question, ‘What are we looking for?’ I guess it’s that natural enthusiasm, that natural warmth and friendliness. I’ve always said, you’re either naturally a Virgin Atlantic Crew Member or… maybe it’s not for you.”

The modest £12,500 starting salary hasn’t put off 58-year-old grandmother Katrine, who is hoping to fulfill her life long dream to become a ‘trolley dolly’. Katrine says: “It’s what I’ve been wanting to do for 25-30 years, and I feel the time is right. That’s why I haven’t gone for it before, I had young children so I couldn’t give 110% to the role at the time. It’s time for me now… touch wood!”

We follow the new recruits through training, styling and their eventful first flights to Cancun and Dubai. With delays, turbulence and passenger sickness, will their training have equipped the fledgling cabin crew with everything they need to make their first flights a success?

Episode 2 – Tuesday 14 July

In episode two, we follow the team launching the airline’s new Vivienne Westwood designed staff uniform. It’s the first new uniform in 15 years and Annie has the responsibility of fitting out thousands of staff from all over the business – some love the tight curves but not everyone is convinced by the new look.  

Rebe, Mim and Helen, Virgin Atlantic’s very own style team, are putting together a glossy style bible for company staff, which lays down the law on everything from hair and make up, to how to wear the new uniform. They want airline staff to be the magazine’s models, so hopefuls fly in to Crawley from as far afield as India and San Francisco to compete in Virgin’s Top Model competition. Rodrigo, who admits to having a lot of ‘work’ done has flown in from a transatlantic shift to take part in the competition, but will his sharp suit and hand painted contact lenses be enough to land him a modeling spot? 

Meanwhile the pressure is on to get Virgin’s new Dreamliner plane delivered on time from Boeing – any hold up could cost the airline millions in lost revenue. Designer Nik is doing the final touches to his cabin lighting which have cost more than the Blackpool illuminations to develop and install and we meet the team in Heathrow’s upper class lounge, whose job is to keep Virgin’s highest paying customers happy, whether whisking them through check in or directing them to the jacuzzi. 

As ever, the warehouse boys back in Crawley offer their own down to earth insights into the airline’s fortunes and misfortunes and play their own part in the uniform launch. 

Episode 3 – Tuesday 21 July

Richard Branson, who founded Virgin Atlantic when he was just 34, is still the face of the airline and we meet him in Florida as he shoots a range of adverts for the brand. It’s a chance for Meigan, the airline’s new Director of Communications, to meet her boss for the first time, and a surprise lies in store for her. As Virgin Atlantic turns 30 the company is thinking ahead to its future. But how will an airline based on youthful exuberance cope with middle age? Reuben is Head of Customer Experience, responsible for and everything to do with how the airline looks and feels. His big job is to oversee the company’s new TV ad campaign, the first in 2 years and he has the tricky job of combining Virgin’s cheeky and sexy past with its maturer years – without being boring. Nailing this idea in a new advert isn’t easy, and the ad shoot in Budapest has its ups and downs. 

After seven years of waiting, the team at Virgin Atlantic are finally about to get their hands on their new Dreamliner plane. Designer Nik and cabin crew trainer Matt Whip are amongst the crew flying the new plane back to the UK. On the flight home Nik discovers that his new lighting has an unfortunate side effect on the crew blouses, while back at Heathrow Chief Exec Craig and his senior team find the welcoming party doesn’t run as smoothly as expected. 

Once it has landed the team has only have a few weeks to get the plane ready for going into service. The Dreamliner flies a different altitude to their older planes, which makes food and drink taste different to the discerning passenger, so Reuben has the all important job of selecting the sparkling wine with the right amount of bubbles for the new altitude.

Also in the episode we also meet the team at the customer complaints centre in Swansea, who are dealing with customer’s increasingly high expectations – and the occasional caller who thinks Richard Branson might be available for a chat. Back in the warehouse in Crawley, Tom is thinking ahead to his own future, with possible retirement on the horizon. The team on the ground at Heathrow reveal some of the stranger things that customers have tried to bring onto a plane, and a Dreamliner launch in Atlanta keeps Richard Branson and the Virgin Atlantic team on their toes.

Full details are available from the ITV Press Office.

“Up In The Air” is produced for ITV by The Garden Productions.

What happens at Heathrow after Virgin Atlantic Little Red closes?

Virgin Atlantic’s “Little Red” flights from London Heathrow to Aberdeen and Edinburgh will end on Saturday 26 September 2015. Until another airline bids for the slots, they will revert back to British Airways.

London Air Travel » Virgin Atlantic

Airbus A320 aircraft in Virgin Atlantic “Little Red” livery

Virgin Atlantic’s “Little Red” flights from London Heathrow to Aberdeen and Edinburgh will end on Saturday 26 September 2015.

These flights were operated with slots forfeited by British Airways as a consequence of the takeover by its parent company, International Airlines Group, of bmi.

The trustee appointed to oversee the release of these slots did re-advertise them. The deadline for applications was 2 April 2015.

In the absence of any announcement to the contrary, we can only deduce that no bidder has come forward. This means that the slots will revert back to British Airways.

It also cannot be a co-incidence that BA has just announced an additional 7 flights a week from Sunday 25 October 2015 to Paris Charles de Gaulle, Amsterdam, Milan–Malpensa airport, Zurich, Geneva, Newcastle and Edinburgh. In addition, BA will add an additional 4 flights a week to Manchester.

Finally, it’s worth noting that holders of Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles can redeem their miles for Virgin Little Red flights from 7,500 miles. Flying Club members can also earn bonus miles on Little Red flights before it closes.

Virgin Atlantic opens new Los Angeles Clubhouse

London Air Travel » Virgin Atlantic

Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse Los Angeles
Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse Los Angeles (Image Credit: Virgin Atlantic)

Virgin Atlantic has long been known for its distinctive, if relatively few in number, Clubhouse lounges. The flagship being of course its London Heathrow Clubhouse, with other Clubhouses in San Francisco, New York, Boston and Washington.

One notable absentee has been Los Angeles, in spite of it being one of Virgin Atlantic’s most important routes after New York.

Today, 28 April 2015, Virgin Atlantic has opened a new Clubhouse at Terminal 2. The lounge has been designed by Slade Architecture who also worked on the airline’s Newark and JFK clubhouses.

The 4,000 sq ft triangular shaped Los Angeles clubhouse offers views of the airport’s apron and Hollywood Hills. The colour palette is relatively toned down compared to other Virgin lounges, with extensive use of white. It is clearly inspired by the Californian outdoor lifestyle and climate.

The lounge is lined by a sculpted Corian and copper Flow Wall that features a copper lined bar. Lounge furniture includes Swan chairs by Arne Jacobsen, Walter Knoll Turtle chairs, classic Eames chairs, and a custom fabricated surfboard inspired counter by the windows that is sculpted from layers of bamboo.

At the apex of the lounge is a pre-flight dining area offering dishes from Hinoki & The Bird. The walls are lined with bamboo and the space features a video insulation by artist Diana Reichenbach.
Continue reading “Virgin Atlantic opens new Los Angeles Clubhouse”

Virgin Atlantic Flash Easter Sale – Book by Tuesday 7 April 2015

London Air Travel » Virgin Atlantic

Virgin Atlantic aircraft at London Heathrow

Virgin Atlantic has launched a flash Easter sale in all cabins and across its long-haul network for travel up to March 2016.

The sale has a very short window. Bookings must be made by Tuesday 7 April 2015.

Some cabins may not be on sale on some routes (Premium Economy to Dubai for instance). There are also excluded periods, such as the two weeks before Christmas 2015. A Saturday night stay is required and stop-overs are not permitted.

Also included in the sale are some routes from London Heathrow that are operated exclusively by Virgin’s transatlantic partner, Delta Air Lines, such as Minneapolis, Philidelphia and Seattle.

There are full details on the Virgin Atlantic website.

Virgin Atlantic begins closure of “Little Red” with suspension of Manchester

Virgin Atlantic’s has suspended its “Little Red” short-haul flights between London Heathrow and Manchester as of late March 2015. Virgin Atlantic “Little Red” will continue to fly between London Heathrow and Aberdeen and Edinburgh until Saturday 26 September 2015.

London Air Travel » Virgin Atlantic

Airbus A320 aircraft in Virgin Atlantic “Little Red” livery

The winding down of Virgin Atlantic’s short-lived UK domestic operation “Little Red” has started with the London Heathrow – Manchester route now suspended, some two years after it first launched.

Virgin Atlantic’s “Little Red” operation will continue to fly from London Heathrow to Aberdeen and Edinburgh three and six times daily until Saturday 26 September 2015.

It’s also worth adding that holders of Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles can redeem their miles for Virgin Little Red flights from 7,500 miles. Flying Club members can also earn bonus miles on Little Red flights.

What will happen to the “Little Red” Heathrow slots?

Some of the slots used by Little Red were from Virgin Atlantic’s existing slot portfolio, so some will revert back to Virgin Atlantic.

Many of the slots (at least nine) were forfeited by British Airways as a consequence of the acquisition of bmi by its parent company, International Airlines Group.

The trustee appointed to oversee the release of slots has re-advertised the slots. The deadline for applications is 2 April 2015.

If there is no bidder, the slots will revert back to British Airways.

There are no obvious candidates for the slots. However, a potential candidate would be easyJet if it felt inclined to launch flights at Heathrow to support its increased targeting of the business market.