After much press speculation and claims by rivals about poor load factors, Virgin Atlantic has today confirmed it is to close its “Little Red” short-haul operation from London Heathrow.
Flights between London and Manchester will cease on 28 March 2015.
Flights between London and Aberdeen and Edinburgh will cease on 26 September 2015.
The flights to Manchester were operated using Virgin’s own slots.
The flights to Aberdeen and Edinburgh were operated using 9 slot pairs forfeited by BA as a condition of its purchase of bmi. Unless another competitor wants to acquire these slots they will revert to BA. (Online speculation that Little Red was simply a clever ruse to acquire slots to be ultimately used for long-haul flights was always ill-founded).
Virgin Atlantic has been quick to point the finger of blame at competition regulators for not allowing it more slots to challenge BA.
This does ignore the fact that bmi had a substantial Heathrow slot portfolio which was not enough to prevent it from incurring heavy losses.
Virgin also had a good level of frequency on routes such as Edinburgh to compete against BA and it could have sought more slots if it wanted do.
It should also be remembered that the primary driver behind Little Red was to provide feeder traffic for Virgin’s long haul network, which has been curtailed, and not to compete for point to point short-haul traffic.