Delta & Virgin Atlantic Gatwick – Boston & New York JFK

Delta & Virgin Atlantic will fly from London Gatwick to Boston and New York JFK respectively from May 2020.

London Air Travel » Virgin Atlantic

Manhattan at Sunrise
Manhattan at Sunrise (Image Credit: London Air Travel)

Delta and Virgin Atlantic are to launch two new routes from London Gatwick to Boston and & New York from May 2020.

Virgin Atlantic will fly from Gatwick to New York JFK from Thursday 21 May 2020. Flights will be operated with an Airbus A330-200 aircraft.

Delta will fly from Gatwick to Boston from Friday 22 May 2020. Flights will operated with Boeing 757 aircraft.

Both routes will operate daily. This is in fact a return to New York JFK for Virgin Atlantic at Gatwick as it served the route from September 1989 before it moved to London Heathrow in July 1991.

Heathrow Schedule Changes

Delta & Virgin Atlantic have also confirmed the following changes to joint-services from London Heathrow from Sunday 29 March 2020.

Delta will take over one of Virgin Atlantic’s six daily frequencies from Heathrow to New York JFK, increasing Delta’s flights to New York JFK to three times daily. Delta’s return flight from New York JFK will operate as a day flight, complementing Virgin’s existing day flight.

Virgin Atlantic will increase frequencies from Heathrow to Los Angeles and Seattle. Flights to Los Angeles will increase from 14 to 17 times weekly. Flights to Seattle will increase from 7 to 11 times weekly. Los Angeles will also be the second destination after New York JFK to be operated with the new Airbus A350-1000 aircraft.

All Delta flights between Heathrow and New York JFK and Boston will be fitted with refurbished Boeing 767-400 aircraft featuring its “Delta One” business class cabin and its new premium economy cabin, Delta Premium Select.

The times of the new flights are as follows:

Depart London Gatwick 10:30 – Arrive Boston 13:20
Depart Boston 21:00 – Arrive London Gatwick 08:45

Depart London Gatwick 12:55 – Arrive New York JFK 15:40
Depart New York JFK 19:30 – Arrive London Gatwick 07:50

Depart London Heathrow 07:30 – Arrive New York JFK 10:30
Depart New York JFK 10:15 – Arrive London Heathrow 22:25

Flights are not yet on sale, but should be shortly.

Air-France KLM, Delta & Virgin Atlantic Transatlantic Joint-Venture Approval

Air France-KLM, Delta & Virgin Atlantic’s combined transatlantic joint-venture has received tentative approval from the US Department of Transportation.

London Air Travel » Virgin Atlantic

KLM, Air France, Delta, Virgin Atlantic Tailfins (Image Credit: Delta Air Lines)
KLM, Air France, Delta, Virgin Atlantic Tailfins (Image Credit: Delta Air Lines)

Air France-KLM, Delta and Virgin Atlantic have received tentative approval from the US Department of Transportation to combine the two transatlantic joint-ventures between Delta and Air France-KLM and Delta and Virgin Atlantic into one.

There had been strong objections from JetBlue which is seeking access to London Heathrow and a number of other European airports.

The Department of Transportation largely dismissed these concerns, but acknowledged concerns about the joint-venture’s presence at Amsterdam Schipol airport.

The Department of Transportation proposes that the airlines report annually on the progress of their co-operation and provide a detailed self-assessment after five years.

The next stage is for interested parties to make submissions to the US Department of Transportation before it issues a final decision.

Regulatory approval has been a long time coming. At present, Air France-KLM and Virgin Atlantic only have a limited codesharing agreement. Once regulatory approval is granted, the two airlines will pursue much greater co-operation.

This is likely to involve co-ordination of schedules and routes, co-location at airports (including possibly London Heathrow) and full reciprocal frequent flyer recognition.

Air France-KLM and Virgin Atlantic may also pursue greater co-operation on flights outside North America where clearly Air France-KLM has a significantly greater presence:

Air France Long-Haul Network
Air France Long-Haul Network (Image Credit: Air France-KLM)
KLM Long-Haul Network
KLM Long-Haul Network (Image Credit: Air France-KLM)

When the combined joint-venture is implemented Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group will also cede control of Virgin Atlantic by selling a 31% stake to Air France-KLM – a largely symbolic, but still historically significant move. This has already been approved by the European Commission and it will leave Delta as the single largest shareholder in Virgin Atlantic with a 49% stake.

Virgin Suspends St Lucia & Moves Havana To Heathrow

Virgin Atlantic is to suspend its direct service from London Gatwick to St Lucia, whilst its route to Havana will move to Heathrow from 8 June 2020.

London Air Travel » Virgin Atlantic

Virgin Atlantic aircraft at London Heathrow
Virgin Atlantic aircraft at London Heathrow (Image Credit: Heathrow)

Virgin Atlantic has announced a series of network changes affecting routes to the Caribbean at London Gatwick.

These take effect from Monday 8 June 2020.

Virgin Atlantic’s route to Havana, currently twice weekly, will move from Gatwick to Heathrow.

Virgin will suspend services to St Lucia, currently three times weekly, after 21 years.

Flights from Gatwick to Antigua will increase from 3 to 4 times weekly. Flights to Grenada and Tobago that are currently routed through St Lucia will be routed through Antigua.

A revised timetable has not yet been released by Virgin.

With Virgin having suspended Cancun and already moved Las Vegas to Heathrow, this does leave it with a diminishing presence at Gatwick. Meanwhile Heathrow is growing with the planned return to Mumbai and launch of Sao Paulo.

Virgin Atlantic Orders 14 Airbus A330neo Aircraft

London Air Travel » Virgin Atlantic

Virgin Atlantic Airbus A330neo aircraft render
Virgin Atlantic Airbus A330neo aircraft render (Image Credit: Virgin Atlantic)

Virgin Atlantic has ordered 14 Airbus A330neo aircraft.

The announcement was made today, Monday 17 June 2019, at the Paris air show.

It is intended that the 14 Airbus A330-900 aircraft will be delivered to the airline from 2021. They will operate at Gatwick, Heathrow and Manchester and will replace Virgin’s current fleet of Airbus A330 aircraft.

Eight of the aircraft will be owned by the airline. Six will be leased from a third party lessor. Virgin also has options for a further 6 aircraft. The aircraft will be powered by Rolls-Royce Trent 7000 engines.

The Airbus A330-900 has a range of 7,200 nautical miles and is designed to accommodate 260-300 passengers.

Virgin Atlantic’s 49% shareholder Delta Air Lines has 35 of the aircraft on order.  The aircraft is currently in service at TAP Air Portugal, which will have 19 of the aircraft in its fleet by the end of this year. Other airlines to have placed significant orders include Air Asia X which will take delivery of its first aircraft later this month.

Virgin Atlantic Relaunches London Heathrow – Mumbai

Virgin Atlantic is to return to Mumbai for the third time with the launch of daily flights from 27 October 2019.

London Air Travel » Virgin Atlantic

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787 Dreamliner
Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787 Dreamliner

Virgin Atlantic is to return to Mumbai for the third time with the relaunch of flights from London Heathrow from Sunday 27 October 2019.

Virgin Atlantic and Mumbai has a long history.

Virgin first launched flights from London Heathrow to Mumbai following the liberalisation of services between the UK and India in 2005. This saw a number of airlines, such as bmi British Midland, enter the market and the route was suspended.

The route was launched again in 2012 with different timings in the hope of capturing connecting traffic to Virgin’s North America route network. It was suspended for a second time in 2015 as part of a wide-ranging reshaping of Virgin’s route network towards North American routes.

Since then, Virgin had relied on a codeshare with Jet Airways to serve Mumbai, and following its recent collapse Virgin has now reinstated the route.

This, together with the launch of Tel Aviv and Sao Paulo, does point to Virgin seeking to move beyond North American routes at London Heathrow. What may work in Virgin’s favour this time is a potential future codeshare partnership with Air France and KLM.

Flights will be operated with a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft and will go on sale at Virgin Atlantic from Tuesday 28 May 2019.

London Heathrow – Mumbai

Depart London Heathrow 10:15 – Arrive Mumbai 00:40
Depart Mumbai 02:55 – Arrive London Heathrow 07:35

Virgin Atlantic Reports A Loss For 2018

Virgin Atlantic has reported a second consecutive annual loss for 2018.

London Air Travel » Virgin Atlantic

Virgin Atlantic aircraft at London Heathrow
Virgin Atlantic aircraft at London Heathrow (Image Credit: Heathrow)

Virgin Atlantic has announced a second consecutive annual loss, having reported a loss before tax and exceptional items of £26.1m for 2018.

This follows a loss before tax and exceptional items of £49m for 2017.

Virgin expects to report a further loss this year, and to “broadly break even” in 2020 before returning to profit in 2021. Three years is of course a very long time in aviation.

In contrast, BA reported an operating profit of £1,952m and its parent company International Airlines Group reported an operating profit of €3,230m for 2018. By any measure this is a stark divergence in financial performance, even when accounting for the relative size of the two airlines.

BA of course benefits from its transatlantic joint-venture with American Airlines and signifiant cost and revenue synergies with fellow member airlines of International Airlines Group.

Virgin is taking a number of steps to turn around its financial performance.

It will replace its last remaining quad engine Airbus A340 and Boeing 747 aircraft with the Airbus A350-1000 from this year. Delta, which owns 49% of Virgin Atlantic, is to combine its transatlantic joint-venture with Virgin with its joint-venture with Air France-KLM. As part of this, Air France-KLM will acquire a 31% stake in Virgin and will explore broader co-operation beyond transatlantic routes.

Virgin is, after a period of focusing on North America, return to growth with the launch of Sao Paulo and Tel Aviv. The airline has also, through a consortium, acquired Flybe.

Key to the turn around of Virgin’s fortunes will be the need to work with Delta and Air France-KLM to create a strong rival to the American Airlines and British Airways joint-venture for both corporate customers and frequent flyers.

This is unlikely to escape the attention of American and BA which are likely to launch more new direct routes from London Heathrow and look at ground service improvements at Heathrow.

Virgin Atlantic Unveils New Upper Class Cabin

Virgin Atlantic has unveiled its new business class cabin which will debut on Airbus A350-1000 aircraft this year.

London Air Travel » Virgin Atlantic

Virgin Atlantic Upper Class Airbus A350 aircraft
Virgin Atlantic Upper Class Airbus A350 aircraft (Image Credit: Virgin Atlantic)

Virgin Atlantic has unveiled its new “Upper Class” business class cabin which will feature on its new Airbus A350-1000 aircraft.

This is the first major redesign of Virgin Atlantic’s business class cabin since it introduced the Upper Class Suite in 2003 with its reverse herringbone design.

Like the Upper Class Suite, all seats benefit from direct access to the aisle. However, that is where the similarity ends. This is a radically new design with forward facing seats in a 1-2-1 configuration.   Whilst this has been adopted by many airlines one significant difference is that all seats face outwards towards the window, whereas on other airlines centre seats tend to face inwards.

The seat is 20″ wide and is 82″ long at its full length.  This is 3″ longer than BA’s new Club Suite.  All seats benefit from improved, albeit not complete, privacy as the seat has a sliding screen.   There is also greater personal storage at shoulder level and a larger 18.5″ TV screen.  Significantly for Virgin, it is no longer necessary to step out of the seat to “flip it over” from seat to bed mode.

Virgin Atlantic Upper Class Airbus A350 aircraft
Virgin Atlantic Upper Class Airbus A350 aircraft (Image Credit: Virgin Atlantic)

There will be 44 Upper Class seats on the first Airbus A350s for London Heathrow.  Like the existing BA Club World and Virgin Upper Class seats there are differences in configuration and style and much of these will be a personal preference.

Virgin also promises improved bedding and toiletries, with the added ability to pre-order pyjamas in your preferred size. 

As is to expected from Virgin Atlantic the cabin features its signature colour scheme.  A word of caution when judging the exact colour scheme from official press shots.  Some early images provided to some outlets looked like they had slightly different colour schemes and whether intentionally or otherwise this looks to be the work of Adobe Photoshop’s auto processing tools!

The Upper Class bar is no more

Virgin Atlantic Upper Class Loft Area Airbus A350 aircraft
Virgin Atlantic Upper Class Loft Area Airbus A350 aircraft (Image Credit: Virgin Atlantic)

One of the biggest changes is that Virgin has abandoned its signature Upper Class bar.  

This will be replaced by an 8 seat lounge area dubbed “The Loft” at the entrance to the aircraft.  This features a dedicated 32″ TV screen, with the ability to listen to its audio via bluetooth headphones, and a small stand-up work area.  

Premium & Economy

Also on Virgin’s A350-1000 aircraft are new Premium (formerly premium economy) and economy cabins.

There will be 56 new Premium seats in a 2-4-2 configuration.  

Passengers will benefit from a larger 11.4″ TV screen which can be controlled without the need to press against the screen.  

In economy, there are 235 seats in 3-3-3 configuration.  36 of these seats will be “Economy Delight” seats with 34″ of legroom.   As is to expected, all seats will have at seat power and USB charging ports.  

In total there will be 335 seats (44-56-235) on Virgin’s Airbus A350-1000s at Heathrow.  This compares to 331 (56-56-219) on BA’s Airbus A350-1000s.

Virgin Airbus A350 Routes

Virgin has said that its first Airbus A350s will fly to New York JFK from the summer.

This may focus BA’s mind when choosing which routes will operate with four class Boeing 777-200s retrofitted with the new Club Suite as these aircraft already operate on some flights to New York JFK. History has shown that new business class cabins can have a significant impact on market share.

Delta & Virgin To Launch Gatwick – Boston / New York JFK

Delta and Virgin Atlantic will operate joint-flights from London Gatwick to Boston and New York JFK in 2020.

London Air Travel » Virgin Atlantic

Hudson River Park New York
Hudson River Park New York (Image Credit: London Air Travel)

Delta and Virgin Atlantic have announced that the two airlines are to jointly fly from London Gatwick to Boston and New York JFK from 2020.

There’s a curious lack of detail in the announcement. Neither Delta nor Virgin Atlantic have confirmed which airlines will operating the routes, though Delta’s press release intimates that it will operate at least one of the routes. There’s also no mention of whether this will be a seasonal or year-round route, nor which aircraft will be used. In any event, eligible passengers will benefit from Virgin Atlantic ground facilities at Gatwick such as its Clubhouse in the North Terminal.

For Delta, this will mark a return to London Gatwick which it first served on 1 May 1978 flying to New Orleans via Atlanta using a Lockheed L-1011 TriStar aircraft. Virgin Atlantic launched daily flights from Gatwick to New York JFK in September 1989, and Boston in May 1991, before transferring both routes to London Heathrow after securing access to the airport in July 1991.

It is no accident that this announcement has been made ahead of a press event next week JetBlue which is expected to unveil plans to launch transatlantic flights to Europe. JetBlue has made no secret of its plans to launch transatlantic flights. It has been lobbying US regulatory authorities for slots at London Heathrow to be released as condition of Delta merging its transatlantic joint-ventures with Air France-KLM and Virgin Atlantic into one. However, this has yet to be concluded.

Boston is currently served from Gatwick by Norwegian. New York JFK is also served by BA and Norwegian. Whilst Delta is keen to emphasise its overall strength in Boston, London – Boston is a very important route for BA. Given BA serves Boston four times daily from Heathrow it would be surprising if it did not make a similar competitive response, should JetBlue announce plans to fly to Boston from Gatwick. These moves will of course place significant competitive pressure on Norwegian at Gatwick. JetBlue’s announcement on Wednesday 10 April 2019 is eagerly awaited.

The Evolution Of Virgin Atlantic Upper Class

London Air Travel » Virgin Atlantic

On Monday 8 April 2019, Virgin Atlantic is expected to unveil its new Upper Class suite for its forthcoming Airbus A350-1000 aircraft.

As Virgin Atlantic’s top tier cabin. Upper Class has always featured  prominently across the airline’s advertising since its formation in 1984.  To use marketing speak, it serves as a “brand halo” for the airline.  Virgin Atlantic has consistently marketed the cabin as distinctive from rival airline’s business class, even claiming it offers a First Class service for a business class price.  

Although Virgin Atlantic has a significantly smaller route network and marketing budget than BA, the genius behind its advertising and branding has been to position the airline as a comparable rival to BA for both business and leisure travellers.

The early days of Upper Class

Here’s an early TV ad for Upper Class from 1985.  

You can see distinctive features it still offers today, an Upper Class bar and complimentary car transfers and as well as a now defunct Upper Class lounge area.  Virgin also used to offer free economy tickets to entice business travellers.

Virgin Atlantic Press Advertisement 1984
Virgin Atlantic Press Advertisement 1984

“BA Don’t Give A Shiatsu”

"BA don't give a Shiatsu"
“BA don’t give a Shiatsu” (Image Credit: Virgin Group)

BA has always been a target in Virgin’s advertising.

Some times indirectly.  Some times very directly, as indicated by the above advert.  An extremely simple, but highly effective, execution from the early 1990s illustrating Virgin’s complimentary on board massage service.  A simple statement of fact that is of course left open to wider intepretation.  The onboard massage service was removed around ten years ago.

Continue reading “The Evolution Of Virgin Atlantic Upper Class”

Virgin Atlantic Launches London Heathrow – São Paulo

Virgin Atlantic will fly from London Heathrow to São Paulo from 2020.

London Air Travel » Virgin Atlantic

Sao Paulo, Brazil
Sao Paulo, Brazil (Image Credit: London Air Travel)

Virgin Atlantic is to launch a new route from London Heathrow to São Paulo.

Virgin Atlantic will fly to São Paulo Guarulhos international airport from an as yet unspecified date in 2020. The route will be operated with a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. Virgin has yet to publish a schedule. However, it’s a reasonable assumption flights will leave Heathrow late in the evening to arrive in São Paulo in the early morning.

São Paulo may at first seem daunting for the visitor. It is certainly a very sharp contrast to the beaches of Rio de Janeiro and it is a destination where you do need to some homework in advance. However, São Paulo does have excellent night life, art galleries and public parks such as Ibirapuera Park. Locals are also extremely welcoming and helpful to visitors.

One of the biggest issues is traffic congestion and you do need to allow a generous amount of time when travelling to the airport. If you are also taking domestic flights in Brazil you want to fly to/from Congonhas-São Paulo airport which is much more conveniently located.

Given Virgin’s focus on North America in recent years, it is encouraging to see more non-North American routes. Virgin Atlantic’s 49% shareholder Delta owns a stake in Brazilian airline GOL which may have been one of the factors behind the decision.

Virgin Atlantic will be competing head to head against BA and LATAM, who are due to launch a new joint-venture with Iberia covering Europe – Latin America, subject to an appeal in Chile.

Flights will be on sale at Virgin Atlantic from later this year.