Virgin Atlantic is to temporarily transfer what few remaining flights operate from London Gatwick to London Heathrow airport.
This will take effect for outbound flights from Tuesday 24 March 2020.
The last outbound flights from London Gatwick operated today, Monday 23 March.
On Tuesday 24 March, the last inbound flights will arrive at London Gatwick. These are VS90 from Grenada and St Lucia and VS34 from Antigua.
On Tuesday 24 March, flight VS147 to Havana (formerly VS63 when operated at Gatwick) and VS133 to Antigua (formerly VS33 when operated at Gatwick) will operate from London Heathrow.
A number of destinations Virgin Atlantic ordinarily serves from Gatwick, such as Orlando, are suspended due to travel restrictions.
As Virgin is currently operating a severely limited schedule until the end of April, this arrangement is likely to continue for some weeks at least.
There has been a recent trend for Virgin to transfer routes from Gatwick to Heathrow. Havana was due to transfer Heathrow in June 2020 and Las Vegas was transferred last year. Other routes such as Cancun and St Lucia have been suspended.
If the medium to long term impact of Coronavirus does lead to a significant fall in demand for air travel, the transfer from Gatwick to Heathrow could well become permanent. Should Norwegian permanently withdraw from Gatwick and BA follow Virgin, this would be very damaging to the airport.
Virgin Atlantic is to temporarily close all of its Clubhouse lounges.
Upper Class passengers and eligible members of the Virgin Atlantic Flying Club and partner airline programmes will no longer be able to access these lounges.
Virgin’s lounges at Boston, Johannesburg, London Gatwick, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington Dulles are closed.
The lounge at Newark has also closed permanently due to the suspension of the route.
At London Heathrow, the Upper Class Wing and Revivals Lounge has closed.
Services in the Clubhouse lounge at London Heathrow Terminal 3 are reduced with no deli bar, salon & spa or shoe shine service. The bar and the brasserie will remain open. The lounge will close temporarily from Monday 30 March 2020.
The New York JFK Clubhouse lounge will also remain open, but with reduced services.
Virgin Atlantic is to reduce its lounge services for Upper Class passengers, and eligible members of the Virgin Flying Club and partner airline programmes.
At London Heathrow, the “Revivals” lounge for arriving passengers will close entirely from Thursday 19 March.
The Clubhouse lounge at Terminal 3 will remain open but with reduced staffing. The deli counter will be closed and shoe shine services will not be offered. The spa and salon will also close from Monday 23 March.
The current plan is for services to return to normal on Monday 1 June 2020.
However, given how quickly events are moving with Coronavirus, nothing than can be ruled out.
No airline is expecting a return to normal schedules for many months, if at all this year.
Virgin is currently operating a significantly reduced schedule and expects to have 85% of its aircraft grounded in April. Given the scale of this reduction, a number of lounges outside of London will inevitably close temporarily.
On a lounge related note, American Express has announced that all of its Centurion lounges worldwide will close temporarily from Saturday 21 April 2020.
Virgin Atlantic has offered Silver and Gold members of its Flying Club frequent flyer programme a six month extension to their frequent flyer status.
In addition, the expiry date of vouchers such as Clubhouse and upgrade vouchers will also be extended. These changes should take effect by Friday 20 March 2020.
Virgin Atlantic has advised of the changes as follows:
Frequent Flyer Status Extension
We will be extending the status of all our Silver and Gold Flying Club members by 6 months, so that your status is protected during this difficult period. For example, this means that if your original membership year was due to expire on 30 April 2020, the new expiry date will be 31 October 2020.
This means you will now have 18 months to earn the tier points you need to maintain your current status or achieve new status: 400 tier points need to be earned during the 18 month Extended Membership Year for Silver status to be maintained for another 12 months and 1000 tier points need to be earned during the 18 month Extended Membership Year for Gold status to be maintained for another 12 months.
We will not be sending out new membership cards for this extension period, but your Extended Membership Year will be viewable online in your Flying Club account. Additionally, your digital membership card can be viewed and printed online or downloaded via the Virgin Atlantic app.
For Gold members whose account renews automatically every year the Extended Membership Year will not be applicable. The normal renewal benefits will be awarded at the end of the 12 month membership year instead of the Extended Membership Year.
Your account will be updated on our internal systems by Friday 20 March 2020.
Virgin Atlantic is to postpone the launch of its new route from London Heathrow to São Paulo.
Virgin was due to launch a new daily service to São Paulo Guarulhos international airport on Sunday 29 March 2020.
However, this has now been delayed until Monday 5 October 2020.
The airline has cited the uncertainty caused by the outbreak of Coronavirus (COVID-19) as the reason for the delay.
Passengers whose flights have been cancelled are entitled to a full refund. Virgin should also the opportunity to rebook to a later date, or a rerouting via its transatlantic joint-venture partner Delta Air Lines.
There is no doubt that the current situation facing all airlines is now very serious, with significantly reduced demand.
With so many events being cancelled and organisations banning international travel, there is very little that can be done to stimulate demand.
Virgin has followed many other airlines in waiving change fees for new flights booked up to Tuesday 31 March 2020 for travel up Wednesday 30 September 2020.
Virgin also has a dedicated Upper Class Wing Check-in area at London Heathrow Terminal 3 for passengers arriving by car.
Complimentary transfers are currently available for any Upper Class passengers booking tickets in J, C and D booking classes.
It encompasses a complimentary chauffeur car to and from the airport and, for those passengers travelling to/from London airports, the additional choice of a complimentary limo bike or Gatwick/Heathrow Express tickets.
Virgin Atlantic has now decided to withdraw all complimentary ground transfers for Upper Class passengers who book flights from Wednesday 1 July 2020.
Passengers can still choose to purchase a car transfer service through Virgin Atlantic, as those passengers who are not eligible for a complimentary transfer can do at the moment.
For the avoidance of doubt, all existing bookings will be honoured. As will any eligible bookings made up to 1 July 2020. The Upper Class Wing at London Heathrow Terminal 3 will continue to operate.
Virgin has cited evolving customer needs and the fact that of the 20% of Upper Class passengers who are eligible for a complimentary transfer, only 50% take advantage of it.
Virgin has also cited the desire to provide a consistent experience with its transatlantic joint business partners Air France, Delta and KLM.
Undoubtedly, cost is also a factor. It also has to be said that with increasing environmental scrutiny of aviation, complimentary chauffeur transfers are out of step with the times.
Virgin Atlantic is to return to Cape Town after a break of five years with a new winter seasonal service from London Heathrow.
Flights will operate daily from Sunday 25 October 2020 with a Boeing 787-9 aircraft.
Virgin used to fly to Cape Town until April 2015 when the route was suspended as part of a wide-ranging review of the Virgin Atlantic route network.
Cape Town is a hugely popular winter long-haul destination and the arrival of additional capacity will be welcomed.
Following the closure of Thomas Cook, the route has been exclusively operated by British Airways with daily Boeing 747s from London Heathrow and a winter seasonal Boeing 777 service from London Gatwick. It’s fair to say that the interior condition of Virgin’s 787-9 aircraft is significantly better than some of BA’s soon to be retired 747s that are used on this route.
Flight VS478 will depart London Heathrow at 16:20 arriving at Cape Town at 05:55.
Flight VS479 will depart Cape Town at 08:00 arriving at London Heathrow at 18:00.
Note the return to London Heathrow is a day flight and some may passengers prefer a night flight. There is of course the option of flying back to Heathrow overnight on Virgin Atlantic’s daily service from Johannesburg.
Flights will go on sale from Tuesday 18 February 2020.
Virgin Atlantic has launched its new transatlantic joint-business with Air France-KLM and Delta.
Virgin has had a transatlantic joint-business with Delta since 2014. It has also had a reciprocal codeshare with Air France-KLM on transatlantic routes since March 2019.
Delta has a long-standing transatlantic joint-business with Air France-KLM and the launch of the new combined joint-business allows all three airline groups to co-ordinate transatlantic routes, schedules and fares between Europe and North America.
A key principle of the joint-business is that it is “metal neutral”. This means all participating airlines much treat each other’s flights equally for selling purposes.
At first, passengers are unlikely to notice too much difference. However, the three airlines have mooted closer co-operation such as co-location at airports which could ultimately see Air France and KLM moving flights into London Heathrow Terminal 3.
The first significant change is that from Thursday 13 February 2020 members of the Virgin Atlantic Flying Club will benefit from full reciprocal frequent flyer recognition when flying on the worldwide short and long-haul networks of Air France, Delta and KLM.
Air France-KLM was due to acquire a 31% stake in Virgin Atlantic. However, this has since been abandoned and Virgin Group will retain control of Virgin Atlantic. Virgin may still explore greater co-operation with Air France and KLM on routes outside of North America, where the latter airlines have a substantially greater route network.
The last outbound flight from London Heathrow, VS250, will operate on Friday 31 January 2020. The last inbound flight, VS251, will operate on Saturday 1 February 2020.
Virgin Atlantic currently plans to resume its outbound flight from London Heathrow on Monday 17 February 2020 and its inbound flight to London Heathrow on Tuesday 18 February 2020. However, this is subject to review.
Passengers whose flights have been cancelled are entitled to a full refund, or to rebook to a later date.
Virgin Atlantic will continue to fly daily from London Heathrow to Hong Kong. Passengers who are due to fly to Hong Kong can also request a refund or rebook to a later date.