Virgin Atlantic has today announced a major over-haul of its long-haul network, in what is arguably the single biggest chance to its network since the events of 11 September 2001.
Virgin’s year-round services from London Heathrow to Mumbai and Tokyo Narita will be suspended from 31 January 2015.
Virgin’s seasonal flights from London Heathrow to Vancouver and Cape Town will be suspended permanently from 11 October 2014 and 26 April 2015 respectively.
The loss of these routes will be compensated by the launch of a new Virgin Atlantic route to Detroit from 1 June 2015, replacing a summer seasonal service operated by Delta.
Virgin Atlantic will, from 29 March 2015, also add daily flights to New York JFK (currently six daily joint Delta/Virgin services) and Los Angeles (currently twice daily joint Delta/Virgin services).
In addition, Virgin Atlantic will, from 29 March 2015, add additional summer seasonal flights to Atlanta (currently thrice daily operated by Delta) and San Francisco (currently daily) and winter seasonal flights to Miami (currently daily) from 25 October 2015.
A shake-up of Virgin’s network towards North America has been expected in light of the transatlantic joint-venture with Delta. However, these changes, coupled with recent route suspensions to Accra (suspended 23 September 2013), Nairobi and Sydney (suspended 5 May 2014), mean that Virgin’s global network has scaled back significantly.
The remaining non-US Virgin destinations include Dehli, Dubai, Hong Kong, Johannesburg, Lagos and Shanghai.
The loss of Tokyo is symbolic as Virgin has flown to the city for over 20 years and it was one of the first routes to be served by Virgin by London Heathrow.
With no expansion of London Heathrow imminent and Heathrow slots commanding a significant premium, we do not see these changes being reversed and previously stated ambitions of Virgin to fly to cities like Rio de Janeiro will never be realised.
The news is mixed for British Airways. It has one less competitor on many routes. Indeed, it is now the only airline to fly from London Heathrow to Cape Town.
However, additional frequencies to cities to New York and Los Angeles will put Delta and Virgin in a stronger position to win corporate contracts from BA and American Airlines. More flights to Delta hubs in New York, Atlanta, Detroit, and elsewhere also multiply the number of onward connections offered.
Note there is no mention of any terminal changes that may result from these network changes. Delta’s services to Atlantic, Detroit and Minneapolis currently operate from London Heathrow Terminal 4 and may well follow Delta services to New York JFK, Boston and Seattle to co-locate with Virgin in Terminal 3.
Finally, here are some images we gathered of Virgin route launches as part of Virgin’s 30th anniversary route celebrations.